Friday 30 August 2013


The final job before ballasting was to put in the concrete wall that separated the trackbed from the paved area, this was done with DAS clay rolled out, squared up, and stuck in place, before being painted.

I wanted to control the initial ballast layer carefully so I applied dilute PVA with a brush around the sleepers, and sprinkled the ballast on to it. The ballast is very fine granite, probably intended for N-gauge, and more like gravel in 7mm scale, but that seems to suit.

The second layer of ballast was more conventionally applied dry, brushed into place, then sprayed (misted) with water from a plant mister before having dilute PVA dribbled in from a pippette. Both the water spray and dilute glue have a drop of washing-up liquid to minimise surface tension.

I'm pleased with the result being quite even, and still allowing the wooden sleepers to be visible and a decent gap apparent under the rail. It will get dirtied up with a brown wash later on, and lots of spilt sand over it too.

You may have noticed in the last update that the roof of the rear building had developed a distinct upward curve at the edges despite my best efforts at bracing it. To reverse this it was clamped to a piece of wood, with a little packing at either end, then boiling water poured over it.

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Sunday 25 August 2013

It's coming together...

There has been a good deal of progress with the layout this week, lots of different tasks on the go. The roofs of the buildings have been primed and painted, here they are seen mid-way through painting. The felt roof of the engine shed had grey primer, then a coat of darker grey/black, followed by grey weathering powder. The corrugated iron roof of the tipper shed had red primer, a couple of washes of rusty brown, then a thin wash of black, with brown weathering powders. I'm aiming for an asbestos roof for the low-relief shed, so started with grey primer, then splattered black paint over (the can was running out which helped), a couple of thin washes of grey and more weathering power, the result is looking OK.

All the concrete walls have had a dusting of weathering powder, emphasising the texture and giving a variation in tone. This was followed by a coat of Testors Dullcote matt varnish to protect them, and remove any sheen from the printed paper. The backscene also had a coat of the matt stuff. Now finally the footpath walls could be fixed in place, and the bridge too!

The track has seen more paint, the rails and metal sleepers touched in with rust brown and the sleepers in grey. This was much easier thanks to the earlier spray paint job, though took much longer, but I think the result is much better.

Next up came the ground contours, carved from pieces of polystyrene foam. There isn't much open ground, but the job was somewhat fiddly, filling all the awkward gaps between the buildings and the edges of the board. While I was at it I made up a staircase from track level towards the sand hoppers, using offcuts of foam core board covered in a printout of concrete from the cgtextures website.

The polystyrene was then covered in a "gloop" made up of plaster (filler), powder paint, and a dollop of PVA glue. This is painted on with layers of strips of newspaper to make a brown shell.

As these last couple of photos show the result of these steps has quite a dramatic effect. There's still some way to go, but for the first time it feels like the scene is really coming together.


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Sunday 18 August 2013

Backscene and buildings progress

A big visual step forward has been achieved with the fitting of the backscene. The sky came from Gaugemaster and has been fixed in place with 3M spray "Craft Mount", after advice received on forums this seemed the best way to avoid bubbles and ensure good adhesion. As the adhesive grabbed very quickly fitting it was a nervous moment, only one chance to get it right, but with a little help from my wife we got it in place without mishap.

Having taken some photos of the actual Thakeham site it seemed a shame not to use some to add depth to the scene. I know some are able to do great things with image editing software to splice photos and merge them into a coherent backscene, one day I'd like to give that a go, but for now some printouts and careful work with the scalpel has done a fair job, a grey felt pen disguises any white paper edges. The scenes aren't necessarily of the correct aspect relative to the model, but I think it works overall. The joins will be disguised by the buildings and other scenic features.

Also visible in the photo above, the centre ground has been raised a little and a sheet of brick embossed plastic is being painted to represent the block-paved area used to stack the finished concrete products. Really it should be a herringbone pattern but I've had to settle for a conventional brick pattern.

The buildings have made some progress too with roofs, doors and door-frames being made up from plasticard. I've added plenty of bracing so hopefully there will be no warping. On to the paint-shop now!

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Wednesday 7 August 2013

Concrete Walls

I've been doing a spot of building work. The structures for the layout are all pretty straightforward, they are all in low-relief except the shed in the foreground, and that has been shortened to fit the board. There are no windows, only two sets of double doors. And all are built from concrete blocks!

They have been built from foam-core board (nominally 3mm, though about 4mm thick in reality) and like the baseboard, stuck together with hot glue. My early experiment with this method had butt-joins at the corners but the edge of the board with the soft foam showed through the printed paper as not being a flat surface, so this time I have interlaced the corner. Each side is cut to the full width, then the rear layer of card and the foam is cut away from one side of the join about 4mm deep, so that the other side can fit into it. This is actually pretty easy to do, and as seen below results in a firm flat surface right to the corner. It is probably stronger too!

The buildings are then covered in the Scalescenes block-work texture stuck on with Pritt-Stick. A little PVA strengthens any edges. I'm currently working my way through scribing each wall with a blunt instrument to give a little relief, as you can see it is surprisingly effective.

The remaining structures yet to be scribed. A new engine shed has been built, the one I built to try the method didn't have the right proportions.

Just roofs, doors and doorframes to go. Plus weathering, and I need to find a means of capping that wall that matches the printed texture.
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Monday 5 August 2013

Track Painting - The Quick Way!

Progress with the challenge layout has been a bit slow of late, with the good weather and holidays. And to make matters worse, we seem to have sold our house, and are frantically searching for a new one. This challenge was going to be tight enough without the disruption of moving house!

Anyway, the good weather did make good conditions for outdoor spray painting! This is the fast technique for painting track ... as you can see from the picture above I used red oxide, grey (both Halfords primer) and black (the dregs of whatever cans were in the garage). And lots of newspaper and masking tape.

The red oxide goes first, from the sides as well as above, followed by a light dusting of grey and black, mainly from above. Then a bit more red, and so on, until it looks OK. Finally while wet an off-cut of MDF wiped along the rail head cleans the track, it may need a good clean with a fibreglass stick too. All in less than 20 minutes, half of which was spent masking up the bits I didn't want painted!

Even close-up it looks OK, though I'm planning a wash of dirty brown and perhaps picking the wooden sleepers out in grey, before ballasting. Mind you it all depends on how much time I have!
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Friday 2 August 2013

A Trip on the Welsh Highland Railway

Just got back from a few days at the folks', which is a good base for a day trip to North Wales. I'd not yet got around to riding the Welsh Highland Railway, but with the kids (plus my parents, and my sister's kids too) the full 2.5 hour run from Caerarfon to Porthmadog (plus the same again back) is too much (time as well as money!). So we joined at Rhyd Ddu, a stunning spot at the bottom of Snowdon and about half-way along the line, although I couldn't pronounce the name if you asked!

The kids loved the train running down the road in Porthmadog, and it has to be said there is something fun about a huge Garratt steam loco threading between the traffic. The turn-around at Porthmadog is interesting and slick too, worthy of Easyjet! Cricceth Castle was on "Station Pilot" duties to reverse the train in and out the platform. A shame the timetable doesn't allow for a browse of the shop on a return trip, perhaps the redesigned track layout to be completed this winter will change that, by allowing an FR and WHR train in the station at the same time. That will be interesting to see!

The scenery along the route lived up to expectations, with stunning views of the mountains and into the Aberglasyn Pass. The gradients are fierce, with much of the line at 1 in 40, whilst negotiating extremely sharp curves. At several points the 10-coach train was S shaped as the train turned back and forth to gain height, no wonder this line needs the huge Garratt locomotives!