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!

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,