Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Moments of Indecision, or a change of basics?

 The three front modules of Hoskins sit in the garage staring at me every time I go in there, which is fairly often, certainly at least daily. There is something bothering me, at first I thought it was the alignment of the shop bought points that had me wondering if I should have hand laid the points? Yes, that  has really troubled me, but that’s not it. 

The centre module sat on its back, to save space. I picked it up and moved it. A little heavy, a lot actually. Then there’s the landforms, all hollow, more than I intended. Living in Brisbane the roaches are vicious, and they have taken to eating the landform from the inside out as it is a paper based product.

In early 2022  I’d attended a railway show giving a demonstration on landscaping as part of the NMRA stand. The basis of the work being a foam base that I’d bought from Bunnings and shaped then skinned with the plaster/paper mix I’ve enjoyed working with for ages.

The A-ha! moment came when one was compared with the other. The lightweight foam without holes, and the overly heavy pine frame module with the shell of sculptamold like Swiss cheese on the top. There has to be a better way!

The foam base is solid and easily worked, but there still needs to be a framework that it sits within so that each section can be joined together. Lightweight modules then with foam inserts for the landscape, and even the track laying, maybe. The need to investigate and explore what others are doing is my way forward from here. 

There are few shows to attend these days in Brisbane. It seems the dreaded Covid has had a knock on effect on our hobby. I’m not sure how to express this, maybe just to say that the stuffing has been knocked out of our enthusiasm level. An example of that would be the number of new layouts that make up the shows still going ahead, not that many. It is a conversation that has gone round in circles for years now, and I don’t want to start another circular discussion here, so I’ll stop.

So then what am I saying? Well I think what I shall do is create a foam version of the three modules, at least to the stage of laying track, and investigate where I go from there.

The blue foam that Bunnings is now selling is much better than the green stuff they’ve had up until recently. It’s sold in pieces of 1200x600mm in two thicknesses. The convenience of having it locally is huge, rather than having to order it in bulk from the supplier.

This re start may have to roll back to original plan and see if anything needs to change. My first thought is to re assess the track plan. There have been many discussions go on expressing changes or improvements, so this may be the opportunity. My first thought is that maybe I’m trying to squeeze too much in to an area not really large enough. Do I need to keep to three front modules or, dare i say it, should it be four?

Let’s finish today hoping you find away to reignite your passion in our hobby for yourself and those around you.

Get to the modelling bench!



Saturday, January 22, 2022

Track layout planning becomes reality

 The trials and tribulations of a Railway Modeller are at there greatest when all of those plans you’ve been scratching out for ages, meet the reality of laying track. 

Yep I’m just about there. Well actually I’m at the fun bit, gluing down the cork. Fun? I hear you say? It is for me, at least for now, as I’m doing the front three modules. There have been a few moments of head scratching, and checking of track diagrams and alignment of points matching the sweeping curves of the main yard area. The yard in front of the goods shed is a busy location, with the Mainline running closest to the front of the layout, and the Goods sidings or loops in behind.

The design of the layout with the gentle curve of the central module, seems to be coming together, which is pleasing, and tinged with relief. 

The cork for the tracklaying has been a little scarce, which hopefully means there are a lot more modellers out there making some progress, great stuff! I’ve built a set of legs for the modules to attach to the end of the above central module, that is at seated working height. This makes it much easier to work on the module, than at display height. As I’ve said many times before, I prefer a high display height so that you are immersed in the scene, but for working on the modules seated height is perfect.

I am just up to gluing down the cork between modules, and I’ve attached two together to achieve that. I will be leaving at least two together so that I can begin fixing down the track next. The benefits of using the commercially available track should really see things move along faster once I begin this part of construction.

After that it will be onto the ballast. That really feels miles away from the above photo. The ballast I’ve chosen is as close to what I think would have been used in the early railways around 1880. Most of the imagery I’ve been able to find has the look of sandstone about it, very pale. Further research and help from others has led me to believe that the pale look of sandstone is much like what was being used.

So for now, I shall leave this post here,

Enjoy your week,

Happy modelling!



Monday, January 10, 2022

The BRC project part 1

 From time to time a new discovery can lead you off on a tangent that seems to go on forever.  Whilst browsing through the SJM website I came across something I’d not heard of before. That discovery was a bogie kit from Stephen Johnson Models of an 1890’s ‘Passenger bogie’. My first thought was why the ‘’? Then the rabbit hole beckoned! Out with the books and then reading, reading, reading. 

I’ve only been able to find a couple of photos online of the BRC wagons, and this one is another variation of them. The door locations are similar, however this one has roof hatches. A different batch, different builder, and an evolving design. I will post photos of the model as I go.

A chance flick through the pages had me come across the early refrigeration vans, and in particular the BRC vans. In the description there was a reference to the bogies being ‘passenger’. There it was! I was hooked. Some further reading and the variations between orders and development of the type of wagon certainly had me thinking that this could be a scratchbuilding project worth pursuing. It has been such a long time since I’d scratch built anything, I was ready to have a crack at this one. At the same time, in my head, a little voice was saying ‘what about the BSV’s?’ Yep, I hear ya, next time for sure!

There were two main variants that took my fancy as they both had the same under frame. There was a vertical boarded version and a herringbone boarded version. I thought I could start with two of each and see how I go.

Here’s a photo of the progression of the under frames, all held in the jig in this next photo, then the underfloor is added, as can be seen, next.

The under frame was fairly simple, however I would need a couple of jigs to get things moving, of course, where would I be without a jig? The longitudinals were a bit of an issue, as the styrene I was using kept flexing if they were even a little bit too long. To aid in keeping the ends square a very handy tool I’ve used a lot for this project is the ‘true sander’. It allows a square end to be maintained as you sand, great for a project like this.

The floor would be glued on top of the chassis, with the plan to have it act as a form for the vertical sides of the body to align against. That means that it is 1mm in from the top edge of the chassis.

I’m wondering if I should get some Pinksil and cast this before I go any further, well at least before it goes together. It’s taken me so long to get to this stage, I am considering it, just so I can complete more as I require, especially of the herringbone sided body as it’s going to be just so fiddly to get one right. 

Next up I have to look at the underside plan for plates and bolts, and see if there’s any real benefit in doing these as well. Out with the plan! You know, for the size of the plates, and bolts, I’m not sure that there’s any benefit of adding such fine detail to the underside of a wagon. If I do cast this, then for the sake of completing one, it may well be worth adding the extra detail, more to think on for sure.

Here’s the first part of the side work up against the under frame, and one end. 

I’m now working on a side and end, with the thought of casting them. I’m waiting on having time to purchase some 1/4 round for the corners of the van. Once they are on I’m then into the detailing of the doors, and hinges.

I will leave it there for this week,
Enjoy your time at the workbench,

Sunday, January 2, 2022

Having a go at figurine painting

This post isn't just about figure painting. It is for me about doing more in our hobby, striving to do a better job, than last time, and learning new techniques from others or discovering new ones yourself.

For a few of you, you may have seen my other layout Splitters Swamp Creek. I thoroughly enjoyed the process of building, scenicing (is that a word?) and displaying my layout at shows and conventions. There was one thing that irked me, the lack of people, SSC was empty of a population.
So that is something I'd like to change on Hoskins Hollow.

A population isn't just the people it's the loco drivers, guards, passengers, shop keepers, carts, cars, horses, shoppers and just people living their lives. I enjoy modelling a time well before our own, around the 1920's or so, and that has a certain look, as in the dress and uniforms. When you start to look around for figures of this time period you find there aren't too many around. There used to be one done by preisler, for about the 1900's, so if you have one you'd like to part with, please let me know. In the Australian market there are a couple worth mentioning, of course it is worth noting that I am not involved with these businesses. Stephen Johnson/Andian models have their 3D printed scans of people with amazing detail, and also Mechanical Branch models have theirs. I've enjoyed the choice that having more than one supplier gives, and this can be extended if you are willing to purchase from Modelu in the U.K.

I've ordered a few different 3D prints from all three businesses. The UK ones are everyday shopkeepers and shoppers, and a few other assorted ones to go with the predominantly NSWGR ones purchased from the other two. There has been a great article about painting figures in the AJRM, their most recent edition, and I guess it has been a great catalyst for having a go, and moving forward into something new.

There are moments that my grandiose ideas are completely at odds with my actual abilities as a modeller, maybe it's at these times that there is an opportunity to learn and achieve more, maybe. So to illustrate my point, here's a photo of a model that I was looking at, admiring, and hoping to copy.
The reality of how small a HO figurine is, comes at you like a slap in the face with a wet fish, as soon  as you pick up a brush. I reached for the modelling glasses, the over the front of those magnifying visor, and there you go! There is no way the above is going to be possible, but maybe a little bit. The shading and dry brushing may be enough. I have used a pale wash when painting another figure in a scale aircraft I built recently, and it made a huge difference.

I've several colours I've gathered for the face, skin and clothes of my NSWGR employees. I've had a crack at the first one. I painted all the skin area’s first, then the shirt closest to that, then waist coat, pants and shoes.

The zoom  function of the camera quickly up any issues with your painting, and in the above photo you can see that the dry brush is way too heavy, especially on the pants. I have some paint thinner that I will use to reduce the pigment load of the paint and retry the dry brush, but you can see what I’m trying to do. 

This has been fiddly , but enjoyable, well worth having a go at. I’ve plenty more to perfect my technique. It has been a case of fear of something new for me, and for a long time I’d put the figures aside. Now I’m definitely of the opinion that you only see them with your normal vision, so don’t fuss too much when you have your super powerful, see dust on the moon, vision aids on your head.

For the sake of posting something, I will stop here.
Let’s hope and plan for a better 2022. 

Have a great week,

Friday, August 6, 2021

The Backscene Continues

 The day to day non railway stuff can really mess up our progress sometimes. I find that my plan of ‘well I’ll have a good block of time tomorrow, so I’ll leave it till then,’ never seems to come together. This last week or so I’ve been doing an hour here and there, and seem to be making some real progress. Looking back over these last weeks and I must be honest, the ‘block of time’ technique is for procrastinators. Then I think the ‘hour here and there’ is for building your enthusiasm, after a slow down in motivation.

I looked back at the last post about backscene painting and realised that it was posted in September 2020! So it is definitely time to get this part of the project completed. Let’s have a look at where I’m up to.

The right hand panel has the horizon at its closest, with the trees right behind the Station building. At this stage I’m calling this panel done. Let’s see how long that will last! I may do a little more with the foreground behind the Station area. I won’t know for sure till I add it to the module.

The centre panel that is behind the goods area has the horizon much further in the distance, hopefully giving a greater feeling of depth. This one I’m currently working on, but you can see the general idea. The clouds are a work in progress, and they are what I’m currently working on. I have been using acrylics with a jo Sonja paint extender to create a thinned wash like paint, but I have discovered a paint thinner that behaves like the paint it doesn’t thin it, and this can have its uses. Thinning the paint into a wash is good for blending, but using the thicker extender allows you to have greater control with the amount of pigment you apply. The ‘less is more principle’ applies here. 

The left hand module has the horizon at its furthest, with a fairly flat landform that changes in the foreground to show a creek and its surroundings. It is very obvious that this one needs a lot of work, however I am happy with the volumes and colours I’ve done already. I’m looking forward to seeing how I get the creek added into the foreground. 

I’ll add photos of the area I’m hoping to mimic. These three photos show a different aspect of the scene I hope to add. The openness of the scene, and the muted tones of the landscape are what I will have to try to put in, we shall see.

The colours in this one are fairly pale, with a fair amount of blue added so that they appear to recede. There will be a few clouds, however they will be centred over the distant hills, hopefully making it seem deeper

So three very different scenes, that hopefully work together. The sky and specifically the clouds aid in the transition from one to the next. There have been many reference photos taken, and referred to over the course of this project. In the end there were three or four I used, to try to keep it fairly simple. One of the biggest challenges has been the sheer size of the backscene panels. They are so much taller that my last effort, and indeed, longer as well. All this really means is that I’ve needed to plan each panel, and how it flows into the next. The paint colours I’ve been using allows me to keep to fairly similar shades and that helps make the scenes work together.

I have still a lot to do, but I thought it worth an update as it’s been awhile since my last post. I hope you are all staying safe, keep on modelling, have a great week!



Thursday, May 13, 2021

Scenic base work begins

 It has seemed like ages since I’ve done any scenery work, and the opportunity to do some was quickly taken up. I’m working on the right hand module to start with. There’s really nothing new in how I’m doing this, but a quick recap might help refresh my memory. 

I begin with the plan that I originally came up with. The scenery finishes with the layout edge, so the most important part is the contour of the boards that I’ve already completed. They determine the steepness of the land as it falls away from the track, or indeed the height of the hill that the track may cut through. Along the way I have adjusted them to better work with the backscene that I’ve done the basic landforms on already.

On my previous layout the process was as follows:

1. Stick plastic bags to the underside of the ply base to the scenic board. Then support this with screwed up newspaper taped to the baseboard to support the plastic, this part needs to be manipulated to the shape landform you are wanting.

2. Cover this with tissues in strips, then soak them with watered down pva, dappling with a one inch brush to keep things looking flat.

3. Wait for the above step to dry, up to a few days, 😩. Then mix up the sculptamold, and layer this directly over the tissue/pva shell, contouring as necessary.

I did this religiously for the majority of Splitters, then when completing the new base around the Loco shed, it all changed. I simply completed step 1, then covered the plastic with the sculptamold. This is so much faster, and the sculptamold bonds with the bare timber beautifully. It has really sped things up.

Above, you can see how easy this process is. First tape in the plastic, then tape in the paper to provide the landform you want.

Here you can see the surface of the sculptamold. On the left hand side of the roadbed you can see a slightly flat area beside the track, that will be road access to the Station, and then to the left of that, the landform as it falls away to the front of the layout.

All of this process took just on two hours, and you can see that I’ve nearly completed the first module.

From here it is all about waiting. The sculptamold takes ages in the Qld humidity to dry. Just be patient with it, and if you like you can keep working the surface, smoothing off any rough spots fairly easily with a damp finger.

I’m really happy with the profile I’ve created. It seems to work with the contour boards well, and even better with the backscene boards attached.

Next will be a scenic base on all of the white that I’m now faced with, but that will be the next post.

Have a great week,



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!