Monday, 6 April 2020

The Beck Bridge - New horizons

Working from home has the interesting side effect that being in the house at lunch time is rather boring, so trips down the garden to the workshop can provide a refreshing break. This has produced a few 15-20 minute bursts of activity, and the first benefit of this has been the project to add backscene boards to the Beck Bridge diorama. 

Being a retro-fit this has not been as simple as just fixing them in place. Wanting a curved corner piece added to the complication, and in the end I constructed an 'L' shaped unit in ply complete with the curved corner in place, built up from card formers and thin card, hiding a timber 'L' section to strengthen the join. Further complicating things was that the back piece would sit behind the existing surround, but the end sits on top of the existing surround (as I had no way of hiding it).

I carefully sanded the existing paint from the surrounds of the diorama at the back and sides, in order to get better glue adhesion for the back panel and to be able to fill joins etc at the edges. I also sanded off the coat of paint I had applied to the new sections as I realised I would need to add the timber strengtheners and would need to glue them securely to timber rather than paint.  

Having briefly considered trialling a commercial photo-backscene for this transformation I eventually opted against this as I would struggle to blend the beck into the scene. Therefore the sky is lining paper painted with appropriate emulsion paint. There are clouds but they don't show up too well. 

As can just be seen, at the right hand end I have introduced something that perhaps reflects what I'd really like to see at this moment in time, a glimpse of the sea... I've used a photo I took at Humberston Fitties several years ago looking North up the coast, adding a slight oil painting effect. The track doesn't continue onto the backscene but I've added a couple of paint effects to blend things together and hide the join. This is an incredibly subtle effect when seen in an overall view, but the impact in a low-level shot is much greater.

The beck decoupage has been replaced with a new print and the gap along the rear edge of the board previously painted black has been carefully filled in with scenic treatment including a new wooden fence behind the bushes. The new print is bigger than the old one, taking advantage of the increased height available. It does mean that the beck looks a bit wider in the background. All the backscene work was completed before the 'L' section unit was permanently fixed in place on the diorama.

On thing I hadn't factored in when adding the backscene across the right hand end was the slight limitation to the photography angles looking to the left. It is still feasible to soot this way but maybe not to get the bridge into shot!

The bridge can however be incorporated into long-shots down the scene - I was quite amazed how well this one turned out, a real train heading into the distance effect.

I'm really happy with how these changes have turned out, with hindsight a backscene should have been included from the beginning, but I wasn't thinking of that when I first carved up a cat food box...


Friday, 27 March 2020

Chasing Rainbows

Well what an extraordinary couple of weeks it has been. We joked before the Lincoln Newark exhibition that it might be the last one we went to in a while... and making the decision to miss Narrow Gauge North it turned out to be so.

I contributed a few pictures of 'Shifting Sands' to a Facebook "virtual exhibition" last weekend, nothing new but enough to generate some interest, conversation and feedback. But one in particular bugged me, seen previously here, the white sky was a result of a lack of suitable software skills at the time. I have now had a further play and have finally added some decent looking sky to the shot. As the kids are sticking rainbows in the windows as something to spot when they get a trip out of the house, so I thought I'd push the photo editing skills a touch further!

Stay safe.


Sunday, 15 March 2020

The Beck Bridge - Growth

No, I haven't added an extension, but I have been doing a little work on the Beck Bridge over the weekend, including moving the fence at the right hand end to a different angle, just in case I ever add a backscene with a curved corner... I've also picked up a couple of new scenic products at recent exhibitions and have been carrying out a few trials, some which have now manifested themselves as new additions to the diorama.

I've added new areas of brambles to the front of the scene, the idea being to make the scene look less 'square' and less flat. Having seen mention of using the "other" sort of Hanging Basket Liner in a magazine recently (the sort with a coconut mat effect), I acquired one and carried out a few tests, one of which has made it onto the scene at front left, whilst the larger area on the right has been created in situ.

The 'raw' coconut effect liner is seen on the left, I have started to peel the bulk of the material away from the adhesive coated backing part. I then teased/spread the fibres out a bit and sprayed with hairspray to hold them together. The piece on the right has then been sprayed with two shades of matt brown aerosol (Halfords dark brown and a lighter Humbrol shade).

The painting stage is entirely optional, I think going forward a mixture of painted and unpainted pieces might work (along with adding a second layer here and there to add more height).

The pieces on the diorama were then glued in position with PVA, this is one of my test pieces sprayed with more hairspray followed by foliage fibre (Woodlands Scenics) and then coated in hairspray again and various shades of foliage sprinkled on.

Whether created on the bench or in situ, I've used two shades of foliage fibre from Woodland Scenics and Hornby Skale Scenics, then two different types of foliage sprinkled on over more hairspray and then some coloured scatter added to give the effect of small wild flowers. I've also added short lengths of stalks reaching over the height of the foliage, achieved using Tasma Products 'field grass' cut into short lengths and secured with a small dab of PVA when the stalk was pushed into the main part of the undergrowth.

It is however always tricky to photograph scenic work...

Visible to the right, and also front centre, are some Martin Welberg weed tufts, which really add to the textures in view. They come as a big pack, it should last me a while!

When I moved the fence I opted to remove the seagull from it. The reason for this was two-fold, firstly when I took photos of my 009 Gmeinder on the diorama last week it was clearly in view looking huge, and it was also a little vulnerable when the diorama was boxed up. He has a new perch now, observing the goings on.

This shot actually shows the different textures in the brambles rather well, including the Tasma stalks and some Mini-nature leaves I added in small patches.

I'm still pondering adding a backscene, that also may be something "new2 for me...


Sunday, 8 March 2020

Gmeddling About in 009

Prior to exhibiting my 009 pizza layout 'Old Quarry Line' last July I quickly reworked a Minitrains Gmeinder as a spare loco. I had limited myself to replacing the bonnet side vents with a MG Models etch and altering the cab doorways a little to loose the door one side and add a canvas side sheet and wooden planking on the other. This was the result.

It was only meant to be a temporary work-around but I've grown a bit attached to it. However, the cab sides were still jarring a little, they just didn't look like they belonged on a Feldbahn locomotive...

This is where a recent O9 project came into play. I realised the etched cab sides from the 009 cab on the A1 Models test-build did have a slightly Feldbahn-esque look to them. This is the etch as seen on A1's eBay listing.

Offering them up they were a little too wide and a bit too tall, but setting to I managed to cut them down to size, re-drilling the bottom handrail hole as the original was lost in the cutting. Having added the handrails I then realised the real thing would most likely have shorter rails to allow for a removable cab top, so I removed them, re-drilled and re-soldered them in place. Then came the moment of truth, the cab was carefully removed from the Minitrains loco and bathed in 'Super Strip' to return it to bare plastic to make the required changes. With detail removed and sanded flat I was able to Araldite the new sides in place.

Milliput was used to fill the gaps between the etched sides and plastic parts, being careful to try and retain the rivet details on the ends. I opted not to add a split line horizontally on the cab sides/ends to represent the removable cab top. Even so, it now looked a lot more like a Feldbahn locomotive despite still being a very much a freelance interpretation

Painting then followed, I have managed to match the weathering (what little there was) to the original paintwork on the bonnet and I'm really happy with how the cab corners look, the time spent carefully filling and sanding the join has paid off with the rivet detail intact.

The original driver, already much modified from a Dapol example (largely flattened on the other side) has had further surgery to cope with the new door layout. Having infilled the old door opening to the right with styrene before adding the etched sides, he has had a chunk taken out of the back of his right arm and leg to accommodate this (and a chunk from his left arm too). He now sits in such away that it highlights the thinness of the cab sides at the door opening. He is also now an integral driver, securely polystyrene cemented into the cab side rather than relying on glue under his feet!

 On the other side of the cab the original canvas cover have been resized to fit the new opening, with planking retained below

Before reassembling the cab onto the loco I was able to resolve the issue of less-than-perfect running I had encountered with the loco, eventually resorting to having the wheels out and tweaking the pick-ups a little. I was also careful to replace the glazing in the rear window with thinner material as there was evidence of the flywheel making contact with the old window.


Saturday, 29 February 2020

Test Build 3 - Primed

My build of the MG Models 'Classic' diesel has now had a good scrub up and a coat of etch primer, covering many sins and allowing the filled joins etc to be examined to see if more work is required.

I'm happy to see that the joins around the top of the bonnet have come up well, the attention to this area with the Milliput was worth the effort. Just to note the cab roof is still a separate part and isn't fitted correctly in the pictures.

Overall the finish is a little less smooth than I would like, but that might just be the atmospheric conditions at the time of the spray. It needs a rub over with wet 1500 grit wet and dry paper but that can wait until a top coat is required. As a test build for an as yet undecided project that step can wait until a clearer direction is known.


Sunday, 23 February 2020

Another Inspirational Estate

A sequel to my visit to Belton House in An Inspirational Estate...

What better way to spend a damp and breezy February Saturday than a stroll around a country estate. Despite being very local and literally passing it on my way to work most days, I had never really stepped foot on the Thoresby estate, but there was good reason to over the weekend on 22nd/23rd February, and it wasn't just for the 'Fairy Trail' for the kids. But I'll come back to that point later...

As with Belton there were a few things that caught my eye from a modelling point of view. I quite liked this view down the back of the Hall (now a hotel), I'm not sure if the rollercoaster floor levels are original but imagine it flat with a Heywood locomotive coming towards you.

We've seen Skaledale cricket pavilions being used on narrow gauge layouts as station buildings. Here, the cricket pavilion is doing its best impression of being a long abandoned narrow gauge station.

If you've ever seen the Iain Rice sketch of the Wills tea kiosk used as the scorer's hut, here it is, in reality!

A couple of decades ago there was a railway here, literally yards away from the pavilion was the 10 1/4" gauge Thoresby Miniature Railway, operated by Bill Kirkland using his model of 'Sir Nigel Gresley, which I remember from its period operating on the Stapleford Miniature Railway prior to Bill's passing.

(Authors Collection) 

Amazingly, it is possible to trace most of the course of the railway, there are many sleepers still embedded in the grass along it's gently curving route. It must be at least 30 years ago that it closed but here is some genuine miniature railway archaeology.

As much as finding these remains made my day, the real reason for visiting was to see a welcome return of steam to Thoresby. I had missed this visiting before Christmas but made a note of the return dates, as the 'There & Back Light Railway' was set up and running on a 7 1/4" portable line for the weekend using the Bagnall saddle tank 'Nomi'. The proprietor tells me that they are booked for all sorts of events in all sorts of places over the coming year so do keep an eye out for them!

I've sometimes wondered if a portable line could be a subject for a model, I suppose it is a case of making it look convincing without it looking as if you just couldn't be bothered to ballast!


Thursday, 13 February 2020

Test Build 2 - Seeing Double

At the Pontefract Exhibition a couple of weeks ago, just before becoming acquainted with 'Derwent Road', I was handed a 3D print of an O9 loco cab by John Flower of A1 Models. Having examined it I was told it fitted to an existing 009 kit of a double-bonnet loco. An etch was passed over and a polite request made to build it up and paint it to see if it was practical, or whether the 009 bonnets were a touch too low for O9. This is the result, perched on the Kato chassis borrowed from the MG Models build...

The bonnets were both soldered together and then soldered to the main frame etch. I’ve only added buffer beams and some rudimentary coupler details to the contents of the kit, and a bench seat in the cab, which doesn’t show up in the pictures!

The cab print looked to be in a material akin to Shapeways "white strong and flexible" and cleaned up well, having been sanded/primed several times including some yellow filler primer.

I struggle to think of anything truly centre-cab on 15" gauge, other than perhaps the ex-Dudley Zoo machine that was at Blenheim Palace (but that was a much bigger, 6w-Bo beast rather than a 4-wheeler). Despite this I actually think it works fairly well, and whilst a few extra mm in the bonnet height is desirable, it isn’t as essential as I first thought it would be.

Whilst outwardly not really the sort of loco I'm in need of right now, I had a slightly futuristic thought that it could be a 15" hybrid locomotive, a small petrol engine at one end and batteries at the other...


Sunday, 9 February 2020

Test Build 1 - Laying down the gauntlet

I'm still in the debating and designing phase for future micro layout projects and as part of that process I challenged myself to think about how an O9 layout might look if I was to create something that didn't use my existing fleet of locomotives and stock from 'Shifting Sands', maybe pushing far further into the minimum gauge ethos rather than miniature railway.

Anything new also had to be easier and quicker to build than previous models too, so it isn't a surprise that I started with a kit, the Minimum Gauge Models 'Classic Diesel'. It's only been in the stash four years... Whilst it has a whiff of the RH&DR's 'Redgauntlet' it is reproduced slightly over-scale with several detail differences.

Construction is largely soldered, I've never been convinced that superglue will give longevity on bonds like those holding the bonnet top in place, even if reinforced with Araldite. The cab roof and bonnet have been left as separate units for now to aid painting in the future, and I will get around to adding an exhaust pipe and front grille.

I chose to not use the layered bufferbeams the kit provided and instead used 30 thou styrene to create new overlays, making it easier to add suitable mounting points for MicroTrains couplers and also to alter the shape to sit closer to rail level.

Thoughts also turned to rolling stock. Whilst some existing wagons could be used, more would be required if I went down a light industrial or agricultural route. My usual way of wagon building had three points of time consumption:

  • Scribing plank lines on styrene sheet
  • Creating wood grain effects
  • Adding bolt detail individually
The chance purchase of a Slaters sheet of rivet details on 20 thou styrene sheet prompted some experimentation. Using this and planking sheet the wagon body on the left was built, eliminating all three points of contention.

However, it looked more like a wagon built from old shed timber than planks, so the version on the right was created, returning to scribed planks on the sides (but retaining the Slaters sheet on the floor). The rivet strips were cut finer this time and the end result looks quite acceptable. On the end Evergreen channel section adds further relief.

So the ideas and options are there for the stock, I just need to work out what the layout might be...


Sunday, 26 January 2020

An afternoon at Derwent Road

A trip to the Pontefract model railway exhibition gave me a change to catch up with Bill Flude and his O9 layout 'Derwent Road'. I've followed this with interest online and it certainly exceeded my expectations on this first viewing. Although not quite my own personal style of O9 modelling (it represents a 18" rather than 15" line) it is very close in some ways, with it's carefully selected stock including some 15" prototypes, and a couple of things that I can claim a hand in...

An overview of the layout.

Sitting in that back siding is a battery locomotive that I built (and painted) many years ago and the coach hiding behind the station building is a modified Avalon Line 'Exmoor' style kit.

'Kestrel' is a model of a Groudle Glen locomotive, the prototype is tiny for it's 2ft gauge line and scales well to 18" gauge on a Minitrains chassis.

Fiddle yard exits at both ends of the layout are well disguised, presentation is firmly in the 'cameo' style.

A view down the layout past the modern houses with a sand train approaching. Every loco has sound speakers and the layout itself also has a secondary sound system, which proves very atmospheric!

Finally this should prompt a 'round tuit' for me - the James Hilton/6point5 Minimum Gauge model of 'Jubilee'. Must dig my kit out!

The traders at the show provided a few useful items to assist future projects, and I certainly left feeling a little bit certain about the direction of a few future plans. Prepare for Plan C...


Sunday, 19 January 2020

A lesson from 'Walkley and Wright'

I spent yesterday assisting my Dad operate his new micro layout 'Walkley and Wright' at the Worksop Transport Exhibition. Built to a 300 square inch challenge the main board is 35 x 8" with a fiddle stick to the right within the area requirement. It's standard gauge but the presence of a Hornby Ruston lends it some narrow gauge flavour.

It is set-up in the same way as 'Shifting Sands', on it's storage box with lighting/pelmet supports bolted on (in fact they are the same ones), sat on a table provided by the venue.

Herein lies an interesting layout design lesson. When 'Shifting Sands', at 2ft deep, is operated like this it is rather comfortable, as the back of the layout is right in front of you and the main area of the layout is all visible. Put a narrow shunting plank there and it is further away and you have to bend over to see where the stock is to uncouple! My 'Plan B' board is a similar depth and this has got me thinking about a few things, with a rash assumption it gets built, is a shunting layout and got invited somewhere...

Maybe a strategically mounted camera would help?


Saturday, 11 January 2020

The Beck Bridge - Under Blue Skies

I couldn't resist having a little tinker with the photo of 'Pandora' on the 'Beck Bridge' diorama...

This shot of 'Jay' got similar treatment.

Both skies are genuine Lincolnshire coastal views, taken at Humberston on the Cleethorpes Coast Light Railway back in February last year. I may create a sky board of some sort to shoot against in due course but thought a bit of trickery was in order as an experiment.


Wednesday, 8 January 2020

The Beck Bridge - A New Horizon

Whilst going through various options to develop the 'Beck Bridge' recently I realised that for photography purposes it was bothering me that there was a whacking great gap in the backgound of pictures. From some angles the black edging along the back was showing through, as demonstrated in this natural light shot of 'Flower of the Forest'. This was difficult for me to disguise in editing.

I pondered over this and realised that I could add in a scenic piece to represent the beck flowing away from the scene. After some trials an image that I had downloaded in my research phase was flipped horizontally and given a painted effect. It worked from normal viewing angles but when I muttered something about making the trees on the print out look right, a friend suggested to me that I might try to use the 'Decoupage' technique used by card makers to get a 3D effect. I liked this idea as it could fill the "black edge" at the back of the board effectively without too much bodgery required. As a trial I printed my intended backscene out three times on thin card and carefully layered them using mounting board between the layers.

Satisfied with this I created a two-layer decoupage, in theory a back layer could be added if a fixed backscene was added (or as an extra stand-alone layer). Rather than print onto card I printed onto matt photo paper and then glued this to the card, the result is a slightly more intense colour compared with the mock-up.

The line of cut varies from the mock-up as I took the bottom piece across the pipe, which does give a nice effect. The edges of the trees and bushes were cut as carefully and randomly as I could without driving myself crazy. Once cut the cut edges and the back of each piece was treated with Button Polish (shellac) for strength and durability. Between the layers is a piece of mounting board also treated with Button Polish, the top of which and the upper edges of each piece being painted with a green-grey acrylic to help hem blend in to the printed images. In front of the image new growth in the form of Sea Foam bushes and some Peco long grass hide the joins effectively.

From the back it looks like this, the back piece is some 1/32nd ply cut to shape, Button Polished and then painted with matt black as per the rest of the surround. I've tried to be as neat as possible but it won;t usually be seen!

Under the bridge now looks like this, extra Peco long grasses were added towards the back of the water to hide the join and disguise a bit of the black surround taht insisted on showing through.

A slightly different angle from the first picture but this does illustrate that the new backscene piece and greenery are doing their job. The greenery alone could have helped but the backscene really helps to add depth.

I'm really happy with how these changes have turned out, certainly some of my more negative thoughts about the diorama have now gone, it will have to be stored out of sight rather than on display but for photography purposes I am certainly a lot happier to use it. I may still opt to add a couple of items at the right hand end to better fill the end in but that can wait for another day!