Friday, 17 March 2023

Revisiting the Corkboard

It's been a quiet month since I last posted and actual model-making has been in abeyance for one reason or another. That hasn't stopped the thought processes though...

Since seeing James Hilton's work at Doncaster I have been playing with a few ideas to revive the small corkboard layout I started a few years ago. I think I have now finally reached the conclusion that the "Avalon Brickworks" plan isn't going to achieve what I want to do and needs a rethink. As a reminder, after a year or so of inactivity it presently looks something like this:

So why doesn't it work? There are a few things, some practical and some just "me". One of my bugbears with it (of my own making) is that the track sits in a tray formed by the outer framing of the board. On 'Shifting Sands' I raised the track on thin balsa to overcome this and I regret not doing the same here in "lockdown" conditions. The other practical issue is that the facing point arrangement makes positioning MicroTrains magnets tricky, leaving a magnet on the main line behind the right-hand point in an awkward position, OK for swapping sets of wagons but less so to actually "shunt" individual wagons. The curve in the inner siding pushed the magnet back there leaving little room for manoeuvre. 

The offset circuit of James' 'Canal Street Wharf' inspired plan 1 with a siding added within the circuit. The idea is that it would be fully scenic all around, rather like my 009 layout 'The Old Quarry Line'. At one point I sketched in a loco spur top right outside the circuit but I felt that it made things look unbalanced so it was lost from the final version of the plan.

I then wondered how it would look with the offset of the circuit the other way around, i.e. with the point on the side further away from the baseboard edge. I redrew this as plan 2 which actually confirmed what I thought, that it looked more spacious the other way around with the siding closer to the centre of the board. On both versions there is plenty of space for uncoupling magnets on the straight lines from both arms of the turnout.

These ideas need a complete lift of the existing trackwork, but that is not a bad thing as it will deal with the bugbear of the sunken track. My thinking is either to add another layer to the board top to raise the trackbed, or the more extreme idea to flip the board over and add a new trackbed layer on what is presently the underside of the framing. This would allow some dramatic scenery below track level such as a bridge over a stream. 

However, plan 2 did lead to another train of thought, completely different to the original concept, plan 3...

This is something of a cross between 'Shifting Sands' and an Inglenook! The sidings at the front are a 3,2,4 capacity layout, which isn't bad for the space. All have nice straight runs off the points so uncoupling/coupling should not be an issue. The sidings at the back are intended to be hidden and can hold a loco and 3 wagons.

So back to that "me" issue... I had struggled to find a suitable theme and setting for the original plan. Whilst many feel comfortable with O9 in an industrial setting it isn't something I can relate to, certainly not with my current rolling stock. Steering clear of this theme, I would be looking at depicting a modern-day estate railway of some sort, concentrating on stock used for maintenance of the railway itself and the land, e.g. loads of ballast, sleepers, fencing material, cut trees etc, maybe animal feed. 

As to what will get built, we shall see...



Monday, 13 February 2023

Doncaster Delights

With slightly more advanced planning than last year (I had decided to go weeks before, not on the day) I headed up the road to Doncaster on Sunday for the BRM 'Festival of Railway Modelling'. With a similar plan to last year I intended to concentrate on the layouts and those traders I had identified as having items of interest...

The most recent issue of British Railway Modelling had a strapline on the cover about building a model of a miniature railway. The resultant static model, using parts from West Hill Wagon Works and commercial kits, really captures the spirit of a miniature railway and I had a good chat with Phil Parker about its creation.

Continuing the theme of the smallest exhibits at a large show, it was a pleasure to see the display of layouts by James Hilton, including 'Canal Street Wharf' in OO-6.5, representing 18" gauge. Seeing this has made me start to consider how I could adapt and simplify my stalled 'Avalon Brickworks' style layout to a similar format...

James' double-stacked micro layouts were a joy to see, proving that something so simple but focussed can actually have a lot more impact than some of the larger layouts on show. These smaller layouts really are 3D picture frames and their seeming lightness in construction fascinated me. After a long chat with James many more thoughts were in progress...

Almost directly opposite James' display was the other layout that really grabbed me, the7mm scale 'Harlyn Pier', which has a beautiful seaside setting, with the sea on the backscene and provision for the same of ice cream, rather like my own 'Shifting Sands'!

As there were traders present that I am unlikely to catch at any other show this year I partook in a little shopping, nothing too grand but items that should come in handy over the next few months...


Saturday, 11 February 2023

The Green Machine

We last saw the A1 Models 'Albert' in a sneak-peek in between painting and varnishing. Following application of a coat of Halfords matt lacquer I've now added the finishing touches, working slowly through a post-it note of jobs. Firstly the windows were glazed using 10 thou clear styrene behind the openings, secured with Johnson's 'Kleer' (old-school formula), and the headlights filled using Araldite. Doing this before the cab and bonnet were glued together meant I only had to make up one mix to do both ends, whereas on 'The White Rose' I had to do each end in turn as the light has to sit facing upwards to set without sagging. 

The headlights squeezed the last from my Araldite so I bought an alternative epoxy product in the local motor spares shop to join the two assemblies together, which seems to have worked OK. On the cab front a turned brass A1 Models air horn was added - this one a version designed with cab front mounting in mind. Deft deployment of the epoxy and careful propping allowed this to be secured in place whilst the cab and bonnet were glued together. 

Despite the matt lacquer the underframe looked a little too shiny so the opportunity was taken to overspray a coat of Humbrol matt varnish to this part, followed by some light weathering in the form of dry brushing. This side-on view shows how the Kato chassis is convincigly hidden by the air tanks and the deep solebar.

Inside the cab I added a driver figure, one of the "rubbery" Prieser clones sprayed in grey primer, washed over in black-grey and then the skin and shirt picked out in appropriate colours. Subtle but effective enough when viewed through the cab windows. The 'L' section pieces provided with the kit have been used to locate the cab and bonnet in place, they are easily adjusted to get a secure grip and good location.

Underneath the chassis can be seen the mounts for the MicroTrains couplers, and the strips of lead window flashing added either side of the chassis to add some extra weight. There is scope to add more here or above the footplate if it proves necessary after testing.

With this model completed and in the display cabinet there are currently no O9 models on my workbench... There is a bit of reasoning behind this, I had a bit of a surprise when I went to put 'The White Rose' away after the recent modifications as I realised I hadn't actually allocated a storage box for it! A suitable box was located in the form of a Peco 009 example, but there is a shortage of space in the stock boxes so I need to have a careful think about what goes where in a limited space...


Sunday, 5 February 2023

January Jumble

January has turned out to be a month of finishing off and tinkering. I've already shown the completed tramcar, and sneak preview of the A1 Models 'Albert' can be seen later in this post.

When I swapped it's place in the display case for the tramcar, I re-evaluated how I finished off the bufferbeams and couplers on 'The White Rose'. I was never quite satisfied with awkward L-sections either side of the couplers, so these areas have been carefully reworked with a deeper bufferbeam and sweep-downs at the ends of the side frames, taking cues from Trevor Guest's Dudley Zoo Bo-Bo, now at Windmill Farm. 

This work was carefully completed around the existing paintwork and the new paintwork varnished and blended into the existing finish and a touch of weathering to complete. Couplers were refitted and I am happy with the overall result, still very much a 1960s machine in the latter stages of life!

Having found myself struggling to find anything I wanted to "build" whilst the paintwork on other projects was being completed, I eventually found myself making some changes to a wagon last seen a year ago. At first glance not a lot has actually changed... but I'll give you a clue, the main noticeable difference is the longer wheelbase...

This model was originally built on a Black Dog Mining 6ft chassis frame, however I had noticed that it had a bit of a wobble, more so than usual for these chassis. Separately I had been coming to the conclusion that for layout use where shunting and uncoupling were required, especially with MicroTrains couplers, my wagons with Peco chassis were actually the better performers. So this wagon has received a Peco underframe disguised with a scratchbuilt styrene underframe 'surround' with Black Dog style axleboxes hiding the N-gauge ones. Built and painted away from the body, I was able to get a close-enough colour match of the timber shades. 

Although the official line is that I still don't "do" paintshop progress pictures, at this point it was only really short of a coat of varnish/lacquer so I thought I might as well share it...

The green (Citadel 'Moot Green', brush-applied) is of course based on 'Rachel' at Cleethorpes as pictured in an earlier post, although the shade is perhaps a little darker. The model is now varnished and finished and will be seen in more detail in a future post.



Thursday, 5 January 2023

Tramcar Triumph

The O9 tramcar was varnished in a spare moment on Christmas Eve, using Halfords matt lacquer as an alternative to Dulcote or a Humbrol aerosol. This is the first time I have used this product and the verdict is that I am pretty impressed with it, having just a little sheen that is not inappropriate for coaching stock or locomotives.

With the paintwork completed and festivities out of the way I moved on to a list of tasks to further completion: 

  • Fitting the controllers and brake handles in place on each balcony
  • Fitting 7mm NGA door handles on the centre doors
  • Flush glazing the side windows using 20 thou styrene fixed in place with Kleer. The door drop-frames have a band of chrome trim along the top using a sliver of car body trim strip
  • Weight (self-adhesive window lead) added in pockets between the body sides and seat supports
  • Figures fixed in place in the centre compartment and balconies

There was some hesitancy over a suitable driver figure (or figures...) Five candidates were prepared for this task! Left to right, they are:

  1. Chinese Preiser copy in a slightly soapy plastic. Used in initial testing of the seating and generally good, but not 'hands on' enough for my liking as the main driver.
  2. Monty's Models industrial diesel driver, posed with this hand on the controls. Whitemetal, so to balance him out...
  3. S&D Models young man, relaxed pose for the back platform.
    I then started to worry about the whitemetal figures adding weight in the wrong places, high centre of gravity etc on the Kato bogie chassis so looked for a plastic option again, leading to...
  4. Chinese Preiser copy (old man with stick) in hard plastic, modified to seated position with hand on the controls and head-swapped. Enthused I also created...
  5. Chinese Preiser copy (young lady hand in hair), modified to seated position with her other hand on the controls.

Whilst the plan was to use 4 and 5 at either end of the car, I did wonder if someone with a hand on controls at each end might actually look too much, so the end result was 5, with 1 at the other end, relaxed but poised hand on knee to take control. It is rather a good job that I had created the lady driver, as when it came to it, despite careful measuring and checking, no.4 was a little too tall for the space and looked wrong. I'm sure he will be useable elsewhere, he nearly got lined up to drive the A1 Models 'Albert' but as the driver of that will be barely visible that seemed a bit of a waste.

I had a little setback fixing the roof in place when I found that the glue I had used had failed, it was an old tube of solvent-free UHU that has clearly seen better days, not drying out. So I cleaned up and applied from a fresh tube, held everything in place with elastic bands whilst drying and this time it seems to have done the trick.

With the figures in place I added some more weight in gaps identified around the Kato chassis and then popped the Kato 11-105 in place. The roof was then added as described above. If I have one minor gripe with the finished model it would be the join between the coach sides and roof, however at "normal viewing distance" this is a lot less noticeable than in the photos.

Whilst I have applied a minor amount of weathering along the edges of the fake clerestory on the roof (as this would be a place unlikely to get cleaned) I have yet to add any weathering anywhere else other than a wash on the Kato bogies to tone them down. I will no doubt add something subtle in due course. For now it has taken a spot in the display cabinet for admiration. 


Sunday, 1 January 2023

Highlights of 2022

On the face of it, 2022 seems to have been a quiet year modelling wise for me, at the end of the year it doesn't feel as if there is anything to really reflect on, but as I browse back through the photos I realise it hasn't all been that bad!

The Bungalow

Started in 2021, completed in January, an Airfix/Dapol conversion in 4mm scale built with no real purpose but to 'do'. Interestingly this inspired one of my modelling 'hero's to do a similar conversion, and I'm flatered! I still have it, one day it may feature in a layout or diorama...

The 'Big Tree'

Encouraged by my friend James Wells' work for the NRM's O gauge layout, I reworked my prototype wire-framed tree into a half-relief model with the hope that it would move forward a layout project. Completed in April, it hasn't achieved that but I still have it, awaiting it's moment...

Little Red Number

Restarted earlier in the year from a stalled project, again completed in April, this model of nothing in particular (sorry, The Smiths are playing on the radio...) is one that I am particularly proud of, capturing the spirit of a mid 20th century 15" gauge loco.

'Old Quarry Line' Scenic Re-work

Totally unexpected, as I was meant to be re-working something else instead! I wanted to reuse the scenic materials removed during reworking the big tree and another project, creating new layers of undergrowth and adding another reworked Hornby tree. 

In addition a new dummy siding was added that became host to a much modified Dundas Snailbeach hopper. I completed a running example too, plus a Peco one was received at Christmas...

The White Rose

Having been received from A1 Models back in February, this 3D print finishing project was not completed until October, I have to admit I fell out with on more than one occasion, but perseverance paid off in the end to a satisfactory result, although a few further changes have not been ruled out...

The Tramcar

Another February generated project, but one that had a lot of thoughts and doodles behind it by the time it started. Very much a nonsense project it is currently in the latter stages of assembly post-paintshop, the full reveal will hopefully not be too far into 2023...

Almost 'Albert'

Another A1 Models build but with a lot of changes to better reflect it's inspiration (largely because I know the chaps that built it!). Livery and real name to be determined very soon, watch this space!

There were a few other projects in the course of the year that I haven't mentioned here, including numerous wagons and another tree. But all in all it doesn't really add up to a massive amount of creation. I look on at other modellers rates of production not with envy but awe at what they can output, but have to remember that we all have different circumstances, resources and amounts of time available. I cannot even pinpoint 3D printing as a reason people can produce more, despite those who claim it isn't 'real modelling' (whatever that is), designing the print takes skill and time, and even after printing cleaning up, preparing for paint, painting and finishing still takes time and real skill. I have to admit I prefer other mediums, one of the reasons 'The White Rose' took so long was the 3D print's limitations, but that is a personal choice rather than a prejudice.

In O9 ready-to-run isn't an option, one of the reasons I keep an hand in 009 is that it does allow the odd dabble in "instant satisfaction" and the ability to receive the odd gift of a wagon etc. I'm torn on the Bachmann Quarry Hunslet, I'd really like one, I can afford one but only as a one-off treat. But would it eclipse my Minitrains-based locos that I've put work into to make unique? Decisions, decisions...

Happy New Year to all readers of O9 Modeller.


Thursday, 22 December 2022

'Albert' in his Prime(r)

The A1 Models 'Albert' was given a good clean up with a fibreglass brush, a scrub with Cif and then dried thoroughly to avoid any tarnishing caused by water drying slowly. At this point the box it was sat in gained a post-it saying "gloves on" to remind me not to touch it with bare hands. 

I'd rather not have thing hanging around in that state too long, so after a couple of freezing weeks the "warmer" weather on Monday did allow me to successfully get the loco into primer, with the usual effect of making everything seem 'as one'.

I am really pleased that the joins around the bonnet front and the top of the sides are all smooth and belie the mix of materials. 

This will probably remain in this state for a week or two now, notwithstanding Christmas and the desire to move the tram along in the paintshop, I need to decide on what colour I would like to paint it!

As activity over the coming days is likely to be limited, this will be the last update before Christmas, so I will take this opportunity to wish all blog readers a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.