Monday, 22 October 2018

Uckfield scores again!

Last Saturday I made the trip to Uckfield for the local show, which always manages to have really stunning layouts, so that it feels more like a showcase exhibition than a club show. Perhaps it's the attraction of the exhibitors lunch? Anyway this year was no different.

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Let's start with The Yard (7mm scale, 32 & 16.5mm gauges) by Martin Coombs and Friends. A new dual-gauge layout with DCC sound, radio-control lorries, and operating crane, demonstrating transferring loads between gauges and road transport - all hands off. Impressive, nicely detailed and presented too.

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I love Christopher Payne's layouts, which all have so much detail and charm. St Pierre et la rue Perrin (1:34 scale, 16.5mm gauge) is full of French atmosphere.

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Fintonagh (7mm scale, 21mm gauge) by Dave Holman was a lovely layout based on Irish narrow gauge - the Clogher Valley Railway in particular - and built to scale 3' gauge, to a very high standard. One I'd not come across before, but hope to see again.

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A "local" themed layout was Brighton East (EM) by Dave & Matt Smith, based on a might-have-been concept. Everything about the layout - stock, station, background buildings (including the Hospital), and even the bus livery - set the location so effectively the station name-board wasn't needed. Very nicely done.

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And finally, you may have come across Hobbiton End (5.5mm scale, 9mm gauge) by Simon Addelsee in Railway Modeller recently. I'm disappointed to see a letter in the latest issue complaining about it being featured - are people really that sad? Anyway, I love it - it may be fantasy, but it's done seriously and to a high standard. And one of my favourite photos didn't even include a train.

I shall have to stop there, but there were many more layouts that I liked - including one by the local high school club - so do have a look through more photos here.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Three little engines

A quick update on some dirty locos...

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The NS2 has been sitting around for nearly a year since the last update when it was ready for painting. As you can see I did decide on red, using Humbrol enamels mixed to a shade I liked and applied with my airbrush. Then both this and the green NS2F - an unmodified Minitrains loco - got a dose of my usual weathering, consisting of a dirty well thinned enamel wash, followed by weathering powders. Both still need glazing and a crew, or perhaps tarpaulin sides for the NS2.

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I'd also had the Minitrains Bagnall in a box for some time. This required a change of couplings, and something doing to tone down it's shiny, plasticky finish. However I liked the colour as being a bit different, and the lining is nicely done, so I settled on a simple weathering exercise. I've probably over-done it a little, but it suits an industrial setting and it certainly looks a lot less toy-like now. There's plenty of potential for detailing this loco, and I may add some pipework or toolboxes - as much as anything to try to disguise the slab sides under the boiler - but for now I think it just needs a crew.

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So three more locos ready to enter service, all run sweetly thanks to the Minitrains chassis, but they are unlikely to fit Awngate (except perhaps the Bagnall). However, they will fit in well on Slugworth, so I think my Son will be borrowing them...

Monday, 15 October 2018

More lights

Back at the Gaugemaster event last month I picked up a pack of 3 working lamps by DCC Concepts reduced to under £6 due to, according to the label, "old packaging". Joshua was excited to add lights to the scene, though it's something I've not done before.

The lamps come with a circuit board to drive them and the instructions say it can be powered by voltages up to 16V A.C. However, I have a similar pack of lamps by Gaugemaster for another project, with an apparently identical circuit (I think they are made by the same people), but the instructions for those say on no account to use 16V A.C. such as the accessory output of a controller, as the peak voltage can be much higher. I guess I could have found an old "wall wart" to power it, but my standard power feed to a layout includes the 12V controller output, plus a 16V A.C. feed from the second winding of the transformer, so it made sense to use that. But to be safe I figured a preliminary voltage regulator would be a good idea, in case the circuit wasn't happy with the 16V A.C I would have made one myself but for under £2 I found a ready made circuit on eBay - a no-brainer really.

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This circuit board is seen on the left, and can be adjusted to give between 3.3 and 12V D.C. with the little screw, from up to 20V A.C. We set it to 12V using a multimeter to check the output, and connected it to the input of the lamp driver, with both circuits screwed to a small piece of board.

The lamps come with fine enamelled wires, which can be soldered without having to remove the insulation, so we used strips of PCB sleepers to attach them to. Having tested them with the circuit we mounted them on the layout,  the instructions say a 2.75mm hole is required, but that must be if the lamp is used without a base, as can be seen the tube that extends below the base is very fine - about 1mm diameter.

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The problem was threading the fine wires through such a small hole in the baseboard (two layers of foamcore board). My solution was to tack-solder them to a length of stiff wire to act as a needle as seen above, pass them through the hole, then remove the wire with a touch of the soldering iron. The lamps are held well by friction, but we added a blob of hot glue where the tube exits the board to secure them.

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The piece of board with the two circuits on was then glued to the underside of the layout, and we made the wiring connections, which included a push-button on the front of the layout to switch them on. The lamp wires were connected via strips of PCB, and finally, we powered up the layout to check them out.

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Monday, 8 October 2018

Green Fingers

Continuing the scenic work on Slugworth we moved onto bushes and trees. Bushes and undergrowth is represented with a variety of scenic materials, including rubberised horsehair, various teased-out fibrous materials, and even some lichen. These were covered in scatter and ground foam in various shades of green, the idea being to give an impression of different types of plant rather than any attempt to model specific types. It's a messy and surprisingly time-consuming task, but adds a lot of texture to the landscape.

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The trees are all Joshua's work. I've mentioned the scenic demo exhibition stand by Roy Hickman before, who gets kids involved making scenic items. Joshua has made a couple of trees under his instruction, which use real twigs, rubberised horsehair or teased-out fibres stuck on with hot glue, and scatter material fixed with cheap hairspray. Then he had a homework project to model the rain forest (no, I've no idea why) - so he used the same technique to make a number of trees.

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We'd kept the model thinking the trees would come in useful, so now we have uprooted them and replanted those that fitted best onto Slugworth, along with those he'd made on Roy's demo stand. Some got a refresh of scatter along the way. Such a simple method, however I think they are really impressive, and better than any trees I've ever made from twisted wire...

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Meanwhile, the buildings are getting bedded in to the factory yard. Although they fit into the cobbled yard which minimises any visible gap, we did find the long thin "tufts" of static grass we made on the foil worked well along the edges of the buildings.

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At the end of the yard we wanted a gravel/cinder ground finish, which we simply achieved sprinkling sand onto PVA glue. This was then painted dark grey with acrylics. Joshua then crushed a lump of real coal with a hammer, which was used to make a pile of coal outside the boiler house.

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Things are really coming together now. Just some final details to add, although they can take a lot of time...

Monday, 1 October 2018

Grey and Green

The next step with Slugworth was to ballast the track, using fine granite. It's one of those jobs that many find tedious, although on a small layout it is not too onerous. In fact Joshua rather enjoyed ballasting, leaving me to tidy up the edges and carefully do the points.

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One tip we found useful was to tap the rail with a spoon, which shakes the ballast off the sleepers into the gaps. When in place the ballast was misted with a fine water spray, then dilute PVA dropped in.

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After it was all dry a wash of thin brown acrylic paint was liberally applied over ballast and sleepers to tone it down a little.

We then moved on to grass. First we applied a layer of conventional scatter as a base layer, then on top of that, static grass. My cheap "fly swatter" applicator is sufficient for a small layout like this. We mixed different colours and lengths of fibres to get a realistic look.

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We tried to vary the grass mix according to the use of the land, with longer strands and more lush looking grass on embankments for example.

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Finally, while the static grass was out, we had a go at making our own tufts on a sheet of tin foil. It kinda worked, but the PVA glue blobs were very difficult to remove from the foil, and often showed up under the tuft. Perhaps there's a better glue to use for this?

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Saturday, 29 September 2018

Worthing Exhibition

I visited the Worthing Model Railway Exhibition today. As usual it was a good show for a local club affair, a good number of layouts and some variety, although sadly no narrow gauge. There was a 009 layout listed in the show guide though, so perhaps they had to drop out. Nothing wrong with the quality of the layouts either, and mostly I've not seen them before. There was a good selection of trade too, well stocked for useful things like scenic details, tools and materials, and not just the usual box-shifters and second-hand (although that was covered too).

Rather than a detailed run down, here's a selection of shots that came out well, mostly focused on the scenic details and cohesive settings.

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And this was most definitely recognisable as Shoreham Airport!

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Sunday, 23 September 2018

Building the landscape

Finally we got to the most exciting bit, from Joshua's point of view, scenery. This is the point where bare boards and track quickly start to gain some realism.

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The basic landscape was formed from expanded polystyrene, carved with a craft knife or a broken hacksaw blade. There's nothing dramatic, just some gentle banks, cut to match the profile we'd already cut the fascias to. This was covered with kitchen towel pieces stuck down with dilute PVA glue - a new method for me as I've used newspaper and plaster filler before. This has dried to a very tough "skin" so seems to have worked well.

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To give a final smooth but slightly textured surface and some colour to the scenery I made up my scenery mix. Ingredients are plaster filler, powder paint (to give a brown colour), water, PVA glue, and some sand. The resulting rough slurry can be "painted" over the ground in a thick layer, and oozed into any gaps.

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So now we have soil covered hillsides. Ballasting is next, but first a couple of details. The simple "buffer stop" above was made from a couple of pieces of balsa cut to a sleeper size, and fixed with a couple of wires for "bolts".

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A par of Peco 009 point levers were painted up and stuck down next to the points. A little card packing brings them above sleeper height, the "pip" on the end of the tie bar is cut off so it slides under the lever base-plate.