Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Model Tree Construction, A happy distraction from the jobs at hand

 I’ve always been a modeller with many projects on the go at once. I guess progress is being made if you take into account all the partially completed projects scattered about the workspace? Maybe it’s just me. There has been a stack of paper coated florist wire just begging me to have a crack at a tree, so I did.

The wire was purchased from the florist department of a craft store, I think it was Lincraft. A hefty amount were twisted together to form the trunk, and then more added to increase the number of branches. There have been endless articles on this part of the construction, so I won’t bore you yet again. Suffice to say that I’m on about the fourth coat of modelling paste, to build up the girth of the trunk.

Here is a quick photo of the tree I’ve been working on, along with the paste. I use a bit of colour to darken the paste, that way there is less painting afterwards, before you are completed. The dark colour is the base, all the rest will be lighter.

This week I’ve pulled out a couple of photos for inspiration, of  a tree I spotted whilst walking through the local park. The bark colour is fairly pale. The photo looks great, but when what you are building a scale version of the same, it’s a little difficult to have the same level of detail. I’m still getting used to this, and I think it will take quite a few more till I develop a technique that I’m happy with.

Today I had some time to spend on the trunk. A few colours on the trunk, trying to keep them to a theme. I’m not sure how well it worked, I think I maybe over thinking it really. The old ‘Keep It Simple Stupid’ should be my mantra. So I’ve gone over the trunk and reduced the number of colours I’ve used. To achieve the blackish marking on the trunk, I was thinking of using some ‘soot’ coloured weathering powder. Fairly quickly I realised that that level of colouring was too strong, so I brushed it off. 

After that it it was out with the spray and some brown artificial hair. A few minutes later and here we were. A fair amount of trimming is required once I’ve allowed the Matt spray to dry, as it was looking a wee bit heavy in the branches.

There have been a few trees built at my workbench, and the variation between them is what I’m working on at the moment. To that end I did try using a different foliage flock compared to the last few I’ve built. It was a little larger, so that when applied it stayed more on the top of the branches, rather than sifting itself all through the brown. I will be using this sized scatter in future, as I prefer the look it gives. I’d appreciate your feedback on this also!
A bit of a change from the previous photo. You can still see a fair amount of hair, so some additional trimming is required. I’m fairly happy with this one now, so I will put it aside with others, ready to plant on the layout.

It has been a while between posts, so I’ll leave it there for now,
Enjoy your week!

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Track layout progress

  There’s been a fair bit going on at the modelling desk of late. I think like most modellers, I do tend to go from one unfinished project to another. In my defence, I think it keeps us engaged and fresh, all the better to move forward enjoying our hobby.

 I’ve been working away on the station building, and I’m fairly happy with my progress so far. Even though this isn’t the subject of the title, I think I like to use each post as a ‘where am I at right now’ with my current projects, and the Station building and Post Office certainly have been a focus of late. The roof of the Station has been added, without any detail yet. So there’s a lot more to do, but the worst of it is done already. The two following photos give you a pretty good idea of where I’m up to. Hopefully I’ll have an update soon with the finished models, we shall see.

On to the subject in the title, the track layout. I’ve never used any track planning tools when designing layouts, although I’ve only designed three really, well four if you count the chicken scratchings that were my first home layout plan. There have been three home layout designs now I think about it properly. The first was a tourist railway set in the border ranges near Woodenbong, completely made up, HO scale running on N scale track as a narrow gauge model. The second was based on country NSW and was focused on a fairly common theme, that being grain. This second one made it to grid paper, so a good step forward. The third is based on the Eugowra line and will be built one day. I really like the plan that it has evolved into, with a lot of help from a good friend, Darren. There’s always talk of moving in our household it seems, and if that day does arrive, then Eugowra in a purpose built space is a definite gower!

There have been two show layout plans, the first being ‘Splitters Swamp Creek’, and the second ‘Hoskins Hollow’. Both have kind of had scale drawings, fairly loosely based on scale, more a concept or idea. 

This has meant a bit of playing around with the design of the yard, the placement of sidings, and indeed the Station building also. I’ve mirrored the layout front to back from the original plan, and that has moved the buildings of the Station to right under the viewers nose at the front of the layout. This in turn has flipped the Goods area to the rear of the layout. The changes seem to work, and I do prefer the buildings at the front. 

The other week I had a few people over for our bi weekly get together, and it was great to get some feedback on where I was at with the track plan. The layout has a distinctive shape that does change your view depending on where in front you are standing, and that was my original thought when I began sketching some ideas. It has ended up shaping the modules, that has been a real pain (opportunity) in deciding the final track plan. The view of the track has meant that for it to work visually and to enable it to flow, that I’ve introduced some curved points into the design.

The top photo shows the middle module with the station, and above it a rail motor siding that finishes at the platform. You can clearly see how the points help with the flow of the track work. The bottom photo is of the right hand end module if you were standing in front of the layout. The post office closest to the bottom, with the main Station building above it. This works for me, and thanks must go to the Toosdy Niters that helped work through the ideas, and evolve the track work, within the constraints of the modules.

The change of plan has enabled a slight alteration in the lay of the land, and this is the part that I’ve most enjoyed. It all works. There were issues with the previous ideas, in that the flow of the layout seemed to just not be working. Now the backscene works as there is a little more room for a transition from the foreground to the backscene in how the scenery will eventually be placed.

One of the discussion points with the fellas was the steep area in front of the sidings near the goods area. It really was too steep to b able to work a scene of a small part of the township, which was one of the prime objectives I’d set myself at the planning stage. With the change in points I’m able to alter the geometry of the area, and bring the roads closer together. This in turn has enabled me to give greater space to the town at the front of the layout. It simply means the grade of the land is greatly reduced, so I will be able to construct a more believable scene.

So that’s about it for now, I’d be keen to here your feedback you have on the track arrangements.

Have a great week,

Hug those close to you, whenever you can,



Sunday, September 20, 2020

The Backscene begins

There's been a little more time of late to spend some time out in the trainspace. I use that term, 'trainspace' very deliberately, as it is a double carport, with aluminium slats down either side to aid in security, but there's no dust removal at all. In one side is a car, in the other side are various bits and pieces of bric a brac, and discarded furniture, even a motorbike, and squeezed amongst all that is my hobby space. The extra time has been helpful in reducing the number of non railway related equipment, however there is more to do in that space. 

 The area I have to work in also must accomodate the three scenery modules, legs, and backscene boards. There are three scenery boards to work on, each one about 1700mm long and 600mm high. Luckily I have a shelf area that is at a good height to sit the boards on to begin the painting, squeezed in just in front of H's car.

The blue paint that is graduated down with the addition of extra white and some pale blue colours.
The subtle colour changes are a little harder to replicate than I thought. Through a few videos I've watched on youtube, I've changed what I was doing, and how I was applying the paint. There are many to watch, so choose carefully, some could send you to sleep in minutes!

The clouds themselves have been a bit of an issue, as I've not been happy with some previous incarnations, so there are a few extra layers of paint. I'll jump straight to where I'm up to, with a photo to show you a bit of progress so far.

In this photo you can also see a couple of blue lines toward the bottom that will eventually be the horizon line and the higher one the limit of background foliage.

I have taken so many photos of clouds, with the look I was aiming for. The reality of what my actual ability to paint, compared to those photos is, I guess, the reason so many people buy a photographic backdrop. Anyway I've received some very helpful feedback, that has enabled me to improve what I have been doing, to those that offered constructive comment, thank you!
Above, is a photo I referred to as I attempted to paint some clouds. The difference between ability and reality is rather large. 

The clouds are mostly done on this canvas, so its on with some background trees. I've thrown around various shades of olive green paint, darker in the rear, then a few highlights over the top. It is nothing too involved, as a fair amount of them will be covered by some of the foreground trees that are going to be just behind the Station area. My thought was to have the background fairly close at the Station, then as you move towards the left of the layout, the horizon moves further away. We will see how that ends up.

Above you can see the first layer of background trees going in. Yes it is just a few layers of various greens.
On top of this, below, you can see the start of the trees in the area behind the Station.

I have tended to do an area at a time, that way it doesn't all look the same as if I'd gone straight across the whole of the background with the same colours. This is just something I do, also with my scenery, so there is variation. The one thing I have to be careful of is not making the colours too 'muddy', the trick seems to be to mix the colours on your tray rather than on the end of the paintbrush.

The posts have been a fair way apart, so I might stop it there for now, after all there's still alot more to do!
Have a great week!

Friday, July 10, 2020

The Dreaded Backscene

The thing is Railway Modellers don't see themselves as Artists.
They don't see themselves as Carpenters, Electicians, Negotiators, Researchers, or really as anything rather than 'just modellers'.
 However for the learn-ed amongst us, we know the truth! We are all of the above. Sure our level of capability will be different, but the fact remains that we are in a hobby that goes across many different skill sets. I find it interesting that there are many out there that seem to specialise in one particular facet of the hobby. I believe we need a very balanced approach to gain a level of enjoyment, and indeed success, at what we are trying to create.

For me I thoroughly enjoy the scenery part of layout construction. That starts with the backscenes painting, in my method of construction. It works in with the scenic boards we put up on the front and rear of our layouts, so I always have these installed at least before moving onto some painting. Some of you may wonder why front and rear scenery boards? I've had to go down that road as I will need to remove the backscenes for ease of transport.

A reminder here also that as the layout is for show display the backscenes needed to be light, tall and easily locked together. Starting with the lightness I built a timber frame out of 19x40mm pine, with a centre bracket. The timber sits on its slim face, so that it looks similar to a picture frame, and enables plenty of meat in the joins to keep it square. As far as locking together goes it is fairly basic. At each end of the central board I've attached a piece of half round trim. It's diameter is half of the thickness of the pine frame. That way I attach two ends on the centre board to line up with the front of the frame, then on the other two boards I attach the half round to the rear. The idea being that they would lock against each other when bolted in place.

 Then I've used calico purchased for painting the backscenes on. It is a simple task as long as you follow a couple of basic rules. The first being that attaching the calico starts in the centre of the longest sides, on both the top and bottom of the frame. You then work out from the centre to the ends, using cut tacks to secure at least a double fold over of the calico. The tacks are secured on the rear of the frame. Once all sides are secure you can do either of two things. If you've put on the calico with no effort in keeping it taught, then your next job is to shrink the calico to the frame. You will need a water sprayer and a hairdryer. Fill the spray bottle with recently boiled water, spray it on the front and rear of the calico, then dry it as quickly as you can with the dryer. The result should be a taught canvas ready to receive your paint.
There is a second choice, that being as you tack the calico in place, you do it whilst keeping it taught.
So after completing either way you will need to undercoat the calico, then after drying you are ready to go. I should also mention the the calico will shrink a little as the undercoat dries.

In my last post I put up a photo of the backboards attached, and here's another, a panoramic to get all three modules in. You can see the scenery boards attached to the front and rear of the modules. Whilst I had these all together I did use a pencil and mark the outline of the boards against the canvas, ready to paint now and with a guide as to how far down to paint.

Note also the way the boards sit together without being able to see through between then, the curse of a modular layout.
We are almost to the paint, but we need to decide just what we are going to paint, and how we do it. I approach this part as a series of smaller parts, building on the last. That way I'm able to do a bit when I have time, and I'm not locked into having to have a large block of time just to be able to complete a

project. Little wins along the way help to keep us feeling good about our hobby/progress, and that in 
turn keeps us motivated. How often do you hear about someone that's done something, taken them ages, and they've not been happy with the result? Probably all of us, that's why little wins is the way forward.
I paint the sky and clouds in stages. A photo here will help.

Before any clouds wispy or fluffy, are even thought about starting there is the blue of the sky behind them. All of us will have a way of approaching this, mine is to start in the 'back' and work to the 'front'. So simply put,
1. Sky background from top a deep blue to bottom a lighterblue.
2. Wispy bluish, not white clouds added next, noting how they are almost a solid colour to the left hand side lower part of the photo, but on the right the lighter blue is visible on the tree line.
3. Rear of fluffy clouds added, then more front clouds added only after rear ones are dry.

Make sense? This is to suit my layout too, so I want some depth in the photo in the sky. The 
foreground, trees or mountains will change depending on what you are trying to copy.
In a previous post I put up this next photo, and it gives you an idea of what will happen behind the Station, but that's only a small part of the new layout.

The left hand module on the layout is mostly scenery, so it will have a more distant focus, as can be seen in the next photo.

It's quite a different look to the Station area, but I wanted to create a very different look for the left hand end of the layout. It will be fun bringing it all together. 

So the clouds begin with the blue sky first, so we will start there.
Enough to digest for today I think,
Enjoy your week,
Be kind to yourself,

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Station building begins

Today I thought it worth making a start on the next project, that being the Station building. There is still a little to be done on the Telegraph & Post Office, unfortunately I'm waiting on some parts to arrive in the mail before I can paint and weather it and call it done.
The Station is essentially three buildings linked by covered walkways, so I've decided to build it in three separate parts. The centre is the main building, the second with the lamp room and walkway, and the third the Gents toilet and walkway. I spent a little time with the scanner, and changing the percentage change from the scan, to a scale sized plan. A little bit of time, and some calculations, and a scale sized plan is the result.

The local hobby store closed near me the other week, so I had to go back to another one I've refused to go to as the stock levels are so poor, and the staff, ordinary at best. How they survive and the local with fantastic prices, service and stock levels failed, I've no idea. To my surprise .040" styrene was not available. I did pickup a car siding sheet that will do the same. I was informed tha stock levels were a result of covid19, we shall see.

I began by drawing up all the walls in the elevation on one sheet. The beautiful part of the siding is that it makes it easy to count boards and make all of them the same height, across all the elevations.
I must admit there's been a little head scratching when taking into account the thickness of the siding, and then adjusting the width of the elevations required.

Then there's the addition of the roof profile to allow for when cutting the elevations out. This is all pretty straight forward stuff, but I think if I'd had a little more in the way of suggestions of how lto build a styrene building from scratch I would have saved plenty of time, bandaids, and extra sheets of styrene purchased. So if there happens to be someone out there who's not giving this scratchbuilding thing a crack, please, leave me a message and let me know what you'd like to build.

The windows have been cut, and trial fitted. The lower part to this photo shows the trackside elevation sheet, that will be needed soon. It measured and fitted beside another roofline cutout from a previous project.

The floor has now been cut out in some fancy scribed siding, and you can see the busy street side elevation, to the plain flat rail side elevation. The central room will have internal walls to help keep the model square and to provide a solid base for the roof. This building will be a little more complex than the post office, however the principals are the same, and it can be broken down into smaller tasks that all fit together. This has quickly become the method I return to, as I find it easier to complete steps or mini projects to help keep moving things forward.

That may do for now, hopefully there will be some modelling progress this week. I've a few other things on the go at the moment. There's the painting of some figures, I've been inspired by a recent article in the 'Australian Journal of Australian Modelling', well worth supporting this Australian
manufactured magazine, for the modeller that wants to learn/do more. Then there's the progress on the backboards, maybe a photo here.

So you can see, things are moving forward, a couple of projects at a time.
Have a great week,
Hug those who matter,

Sunday, June 14, 2020

How do we run a layout during a show?

You've made the time to go out, probably for the day. You may well be by yourself. You may be meeting some friends there. It's been ages since you've been to a Model Railway Show, so expectations are high, a little bit of nervous energy as you wait to pay your entrance fee...then you are in!

We've all been there, we all look for something different. That the hard part really, as everyone does have a different idea of how to present a layout.

I have a few pet hates, these are not directed at anyone, I swear! My biggest peeves, in no particular order:
-Locomotives working so far above scale speeds.
-Inattentive layout presenters.
-Rollingstock from different locations, run together.
-A mix of weathered, and non weathered rolling stock.
-Layouts not being run until a defined closing time.

Yes I know the flood gates will probably open, sorry.

So what to do about it? Well in this covid 19 time that we live, I've had a little free headspace to have a think about it. I think we should have a dialogue about what we would like to see, and how we would do it.

Here's a few chicken scratchings that I put together. I will be running steam on HH, so that's the focus. What have I missed? What about a set program that you have as a roster for the day, so that those who are interested will make the time to return?
 I, personally would like to see that. It would even work for Club layouts, say with steam 10-12, diesels 1215-1230, you get the idea. You could even have more detailed information like the movements of trains, or locations and a rough idea of what that would mean.

I've always wanted to give people a reason to stop, to linger, that way they feel more comfortable in asking questions. If someone turns up at your layout, and they are the only one, then in my experience if you don't give them a reason to stay, to be comfortable, then they will move on, with many questions left unasked. Railway Modellers are for the most part loners, there aren't too many that are resilient enough to stand in front of their community and share their efforts. Those who aren't presenting, tend to be the quiet ones, easily startled, you get it, si?

When I had Splitters, I had created a 'history' for the location, with details of rollingstock and what was transported on the line. I was then faced with people wanting to go and see what was still there. So then I added a sheet of the explanation of what I was trying to achieve in my Proto-Freelance modelling efforts. So people are prepared to stop and read, let's use that and give them a reason to pause out the front of your layout.

We've all had quite some time away from shows this year, and what have you learnt about our hobby during this down time? I've had time to re assess what we do, how we do it, what matters, and how we present it to the public.

If you have some opinions, please, share them. I'd love a discussion about what we do, could do, or should do.

Have a great week, live in smiles,

Sunday, June 7, 2020

The Twins, finishing off, well almost

There's been a fair bit going on at our place for a few weeks now. The modelling bench has been a welcomed distraction. 

I've moved forward with the building of the Post & Telegraph office, on to the fiddly bits that can seem to take ages to complete. The verandah roofing with all that this brings. The bits are the guttering and what happens under the gutters. Then there's the verandah roofing, and the verandah posts.

In this really poorly focussed photo you can get an idea of what I've been working on. There's the barge boards on the end of the roof, the gutter and under it the facia. The gutter is U channel with a section of .040" square styrene glued to the underside of the 'gutter' so that the back of the gutter is flush with the back of the styrene. These I make separately in sections ready to use when I need them.

The verandah posts fit into a styrene base of about 3mm high, and made up out of two pieces of angle, as illustrated above. By doing this I can have the building base, separate from the building, separate from the roof, all so I can paint each part separately. There was some outside help with this idea, and it came from an online session with modellers from around Aus and one from the UK, thanks guys!

Here you can see the posts on the verandah, fitted into their base. Since taking the photo I've re-aligned the base on the outside posts, as they were a little off being upright. The roofing is being glued on also, I've used Campbell's corrugated iron, I love this stuff! 
The building is coming together pretty well. Most of the gutters and roofing is done, there is just downpipes, a rainhead to go at the gable gutter, and after receiving some great suggestions from a facebook comment, I will be doing ground plumbing fitment also.

I'm not too far away from painting this now. I will be working on the interior this week. Then I'm going to make a start on the Station complex. It is a much bigger building than on Splitters, so a good challenge, and a step up in building with styrene.

There are a couple of projects on the go at the same time, and the backscene frames are nearly ready to have some blue paint applied. This is one of my favourite parts of layout construction as it sets the theme and especially the scenery style. So many people seem to be worried about this part, lets see how we go.

A new week ahead, another cool one, perfect for modelling, enjoy your week,