Thursday 29 February 2024

Hexworthy prepares for its first show

Hexworthy will be on show at the Wealden Railway Group exhibition in Steyning in 10 days time. Do say hello if you are able to get there. 

I've been working hard to get the layout ready for this it's first exhibition. I've been preparing a few more details to add and stock to run, and expect to be doing some test running this weekend. Hopefully all will be ready and working on the day! Here's a taster of how it might look...

Thursday 22 February 2024

Car unwash

I've acquired a couple of road vehicles for Hexworthy, a ubiquitous Transit van and a Land Rover Defender. Both are nicely detailed models by Oxford Diecast, with interiors, UK number plates, and rubber tyres, but they are rather too shiny and clean...

So I disassembled them, which is easy as they are simply screwed together (I've drilled out many rivets under toy Hotwheels cars for my Son to customise!). Removing the wheels, glazing, and interior allows weathering as follows:
  • Rubbed down the paintwork with very fine emery and a fibreglass pencil to tone down the shine
  • Cut off the mounting screw mounts under the Land Rover, as its high ground clearance made them visible
  • The Transit van got dry-brushed rust (enamel) paint around the wheel arches, sills, gutter, and some panel edges - not too much, just a hint suggesting a long life
  • Plastic bumpers were painted, almost black on the Land Rover and dark grey on the Transit van
  • Window recesses were touched in with black paint where not already painted black
  • A dark brown wash was applied and partially rubbed off, filling panel gaps and toning down the paint slightly. A black wash was applied to the wheels. I've started using Vallejo washes, they're convenient and work well
  • A muddy brown was then airbrushed along the sills and around the wheel-arches, and up the rear of the vehicles from below, plus a little on the tyres
  • Finally, the bodies got a spray of Testors Dullcote (with headlights masked) before being re-assembled

The Transit van is on 1989 plates so I gave it heavier weathering with touches of rust showing through, and faded bumpers (the black plastics of vehicles of that era seemed to fade to grey very quickly). I also painted the interior a darker shade of mid-grey as it seemed a bit pale. It is lacking wing mirrors which I may have a go at making, but they would be rather delicate. 

The Land Rover is on 2012 plates so much newer, consequently I was much lighter on the weathering. There is still a light wash to bring out the panel gap shadows and mud behind the wheel-arches as befits a vehicle that is presumably used on country lanes a lot. The black wash on the wheels has filled the "blind" holes in the alloys, improving their looks.

I'm very pleased with the results, they've lost the deep glossy finish and look more realistic, with signs of real-world use and different ageing. 

Monday 19 February 2024

Hexworthy dry-run

Ahead of its first exhibition next month I thought I should do a dry-run of setting up the layout in its exhibition format. You may remember the exhibition fiddle-yard, which was fitted to the layout for testing. 

Although only completed a few months ago, I found several issues, including the track being completely dead - traced to a loose wire. Also the rails didn't line up well with the station board, maybe I didn't do a good job first time but a soldering iron soon fixed that. More seriously, the "latch-release" lever didn't release the alignment latches effectively making the traverser difficult to use smoothly, and the far end latch didn't always engage. Investigation revealed that the dowel across the board rotated by the lever was starting to split, while the dowel that ran along the board to release the far latch didn't slide smoothly. 

I found some 10mm dowel so used this to replace the rotating shaft across the board, this should be have much more torsional strength. The operating lever was beefed up too. The latch release lever for the near latch was re-fixed, and the connection to the second dowel made with a screw through a slotted hole rather than a bent paperclip. 

The dowel operating the far latch was removed and the holes opened up more so it moved smoothly. As well as the improved connection to the lever, a spring was added to pull the release away from the latch when the handle is released, ensuring the latch is free to engage. Hopefully these changes will make the mechanism robust enough to work through exhibitions. 

I also brought the supporting legs in from the garage, having dusted off the spiders, their webs and nests. These were made for Awngate and haven't been used for several years, they consist of a pair of folding trestles and a pair of L-section beams that span between them, bolted in place. The front beam is inverted with a flat top, the lip of the rear beam prevents the layout slipping off rearward. The assembly is sturdy and still seems to do its job well enough, although the beams are just 4' long, but Hexworthy is 4' 6" plus the fiddle yard - close to 7' in total. As the boards are rigidly joined the overhangs either end aren't really an issue, but I could make some longer beams provided they still fit in the car. 

The trestles are 2' wide, the layout sits with its front to the edge of the trestles. I have a longer drape that could cover the end of the trestle better, it's held with drawing pins and trapped in place by the layout. This set-up doesn't take long nor take up a lot of space in the car, and as seen it can serve different layouts. The height is about 3' 8", with track level at 4' for this layout. 

Saturday 10 February 2024

Readying ready to run

I've a lot of small tasks ongoing in parallel at the moment, mostly preparing stock for Hexworthy in preparation for its first exhibition next month. The first to be finished was a small but important task, making ready-to-run coaches actually ready to run. Lovely though the Peco coaches are, they have a bit of a plasticky look (particularly the roofs) and are too clean even for a preserved railway.

The three Lynton and Barnstaple coaches had a number of little jobs done:
  • The white plastic roofs were airbrushed with off-white acrylic, as much as anything to reduce the plasticky sheen and to take the edge off the starkness
  • They then had a fine mist of black splattered over the top to represent soot, as with the Ashover coaches
  • The lamp tops were then picked out in matt black (well, very dark grey), the little covers next to them were left white
  • The plastic moulded hand-rail had the edge picked out in black, which from most angles makes it look much more like a handrail than a white ridge
  • The steps, lamp brackets, and handrails on the coach ends were also picked out in matt dark grey/black, I also painted the buffer beams black
  • The grey/black thinned slightly was also run along the footboards and underframes to soften them and make them matt
  • A mid-brown acrylic was then airbrushed lightly over the footboards and underframes, allowing a little to mist onto the lower sides and ends. 
The airbrushing was done very lightly, using the end-stop to limit paint flow, aiming for a very subtle weathering from track dirt and loco soot, but otherwise leaving the coaches clean as though regularly washed. I guess it reflects my increasing confidence with the airbrush. 

I've also been painting passengers, a mix of Faller and the 3D printed Finescale Figures (the legless ones). These used acrylics, some were a bit shiny so I added a coat of Humbrol Matcote - which left them more shiny. Am I doing something wrong? Fortunately I had some Vallejo matt acrylic varnish, a couple of coats of which worked. 

Passengers fitted to the L&B coaches, and also the WHR coach built a little while back. A couple of people per compartment works well, so 5-6 per coach is sufficient to give the impression of a partially occupied train. 

The passengers are just visible through the windows, and the subtle weathering to roofs and underframes is effective at removing the plastickyness. 

The four-wheelers  got the same treatment. I didn't like the white roof on the brake so it was sprayed with grey primer, and the lamp-top painted black along with the steps on the ends. As with the L&B coaches a light airbrushing of soot from above and track dirt from below gives the impression of use, a few minutes work makes a big difference. I've not yet fitted passengers, although the small windows means it probably isn't essential. 

Wednesday 10 January 2024

Making Tracks III - Milton Keynes

Over the Christmas break I visited family, and just down the road at Blakemere Village (a collection of craft shops and other attractions) Pete Waterman's "Making Tracks 3" model of Milton Keynes was on show.  

The scale of the model is, of course, impressive. This is not a small station, with 6 platforms, and set against a backdrop of modern office blocks. I've only passed through Milton Keynes station on a train so can't say how accurate the model is. 

Full length West-coast mainline trains are dwarfed by the layout. The multiple tracks and DCC operation allow a prototypically intensive service, so you don't wait long to see a train. Around the back long loops held an array of trains, shuffling up while awaiting their turn to depart. Visitors were being encouraged to have a go at driving trains using a tablet. 

Much of the layout is just track with a little scenery, this is a layout to watch the trains go by. There were a variety of trains providing interest and colour, including some unusual trains and a few steam trains, as well as those more typical of the West coast mainline. 

Despite the size of the layout and limited scenic development beyond the tracks with operation being the centrepiece, a lot of work has gone into the detailing. Look at the complexity of the catenary, the forest of (working) signals, the finesse of the fencing, streetlamps...

The track itself is nicely painted and ballasted (although real ballast tends to be dirtier I think!), with the AWS ramps and other trackside paraphernalia (no I don't know what they all do) modelled. Oh, and a snowman, 

The snowman wasn't the only festive decoration, this nativity scene enhanced an office car park. Santa's sleigh was also spotted in another car park (but no reindeer). 

An enjoyable visit to an impressive model exhibited in quite an intimate setting. Rather than the vast space of Chester cathedral that it was built for, it occupied a barn-type structure, I understand the model had been shortened to fit, though I couldn't tell where. While visitors were trickling through, it was not at all crowded so it was easy to wander around and view the layout from all angles. Pete was even chatting to visitors. Hopefully, as well as attracting enthusiasts it will have been seen by many casual visitors, including families, and maybe some of those will take an interest in railway modelling. 

Thursday 4 January 2024

Ashover coaches Part 6 - completion

In the last update the Ashover coaches had been painted. I applied a brown enamel wash sparingly to the bogies, underframes and steps, and in places allowed this to wick up into the match-boarding grooves, mainly on the ends. The result is subtle and barely noticeable, but does soften the black and give a clean but used look. Then, a spray of matt varnish was applied. 

In parallel I painted a selection of Faller seated passengers using artists acrylics, mixed on the palette on the go, I don't find these paints as nice to use as enamels and the result is rather crude, but it was a fast method that gave acceptable results considering they will be visible only through the windows of the coach. I used deliberately varied colours to ensure they could be seen though!

The next step was glazing the coaches, a slightly tricky and involved job, complicated by the open windows! I used 0.5mm clear styrene which was protected with a peel-off layer both sides, I removed this after cutting to size and just before fitting to avoid scratches and fingerprints, then stuck in place with Humbrol Clearfix which doesn't fog the glazing, dries clear, and excess can be removed easily with a cocktail stick as it dries. The glazing is fitted behind the sides so not flush, which is noticeable at the open windows but only on close inspection. The ends with open doors used thinner clear plastic. 

Then the passengers could be installed, sitting on blobs of contact adhesive. A couple of ladies had diverted to the Hexworthy station cafĂ© but there were enough for 5-6 people per coach, sufficient to suggest occupancy. 

The bogies had their couplings fitted. Some had been prepared for Microtrains couplings already, so these were attached with a cut-down screw. The rest have Greenwich couplings fitted, they're not my normal coupling and I found them fiddly to make up, though it got easier with practice. They needed a couple of bends in the shank to bring them from under the bogie to the correct height. To ensure they are securely fixed I drilled a hole through the bogie and inserted an L-shape piece of 0.5mm wire inverted so it protrudes below the bogie, and slotted one of the holes in the coupling shank (opened out slightly) over the wire as I superglued it to the bogie. The wire "peg" should take the lateral shear force.

You may be wondering why the couplings are different at each end of the coach! I want to run them with my existing kit-built locos fitted with Microtrains couplings, or the ready-to-run locos now available which have standard 009 couplings and are difficult or impossible to fit Microtrains couplings to. By having a pairs of coaches with different couplings at each end, either coupling type can face outward from the set. The fifth coach has Greenwich couplings to make a rake of three either coupled onto or between the pairs. 

Finally, the roofs were fixed with matt Modge Podge, this is sticky enough to hold them and yet easily removed without damage if needed, while being easy to clean up and leaving no trace. And so the five coaches are complete and ready for service on Hexworthy. Three fit the platform with space to spare (four don't, but there may be space for a 4-wheeler), while two fill the bay. The livery looks great, and they fit well with a variety of locos. 

I didn't quite manage to finish them ahead of the Bachmann models release, and missed my own hoped for deadline of the end of the year by one day. But that doesn't matter. I know my models are unique, not just in livery but the details such as handrails (which appear moulded on the Bachmann model) and open windows, and of course the brake conversion (well, that's not totally unique as my friend Tim did his first!). Most importantly, I'm pleased with the way they have come out and I expect they will provide useful service on Hexworthy. 

Tuesday 26 December 2023

New coaches and people

 Christmas has brought a couple of new coaches...

A Festiniog Railway "bug box" and a freelance Glyn Valley style brake van. There were a few other model railway related presents with some scenic items and some 3D printed figures...

These are from Finescale Figures (actually ordered in a sale some time ago), the selection includes some seated figures destined for coaches, a variety of animals, and some modern dress figures. These are resin printed and although the detail is not as sharp as Model-U, they are realistic in proportion and pose and I'm sure will benefit Hexworthy. 

I trust Santa brought you nice goodies too!