Handy diorama boards…

September 24, 2017

…and minutes to assemble!

From time to time, I get the chance to look at some very useful quality products  such as the track cleaning car by Ten Commandment Models/KPF Zeller. Recently, another excellent product has appeared in the studio for evaluation. I have recently had the opportunity to give the new laser-cut diorama baseboard units manufactured by Scale Model Scenery a try. Two outer (end) and one centre unit board has been built for review and I am most impressed by their potential. The outer units build up with back and side boards and may be either a left-hand or right-hand end unit. The centre one has additional fixings and a back board. Three together makes a baseboard with 121cm length measured on the inside faces of both the left- and right-hand side boards – ideal for a compact or micro-layout in N or OO/HO gauge. Add another centre unit and an O gauge diorama or micro-layout is possible. Fixings to secure the boards together are supplied in each kit.

Assembly is quick and easy – can be done on a table top with minimal tools and a spot of fast-setting wood glue. Within an hour, you could be laying track (and track bed) and planning wiring, structures and scenic detailing!

The ‘dove-tail’ construction method is strong and although I would suggest glue is used to permanently secure the boards and plinths together, the parts having a good interference fit. A slight tap with my hand was needed to seat some of the sections together. The plinths are deep enough for solenoid point motors such as Seep motors or servos. The thickness of the high grade MDF from which the boards are made is sufficiently strong to support a small layout theme because the unsupported length of the boards is small.

There is no reason why a small layout built on these boards could not be exhibited from time to time. The real benefit is being able to dismantle the layout into sections for storage or having the option to secure the boards together as a single length of layout as seen in the accompanying pictures. For those not keen on joinery, or without the space to work with timber and all the mess that goes with cutting and shaping it, these boards offer a lot of potential. I can see military diorama modellers taking an interest is these units too. They will save a great deal of time!

Features are two BB001 large diorama baseboards, one built as a left-hand and one and a right-hand unit using the alternative front plinths supplied in the kits. A BB002 middle unit was used for the middle board. Produced by Scale Model Scenery: http://www.scalemodelscenery.co.uk.

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Japanese style pull saw.

August 6, 2017

One of the most interesting discoveries I have made in recent times has been Japanese designed pull saws which I find easier to use than traditional western woodworking saws.

For sawing really straight and clean cut lines, particularly in plywood, they are very hard to beat. The blades are thin and very springy which makes it easier to cut through hard wood ply such as that shown above. The cut is made on the pull rather than on the push which results in a much cleaner cut and with virtually no splintering – a straight line is also easy to achieve after a little practice. The saw above cost around £10. I bought it to try before investing in more expensive Japanese-made saws. It has made many elements of layout baseboard making so much easier and with less mess than power tools.


Quietly getting on with some modelling…

April 8, 2014

Wheal Annah-1
‘Wheal Annah’ is a quickie N gauge layout project constructed as relief to working on my large layout projects. The layout theme is based on Cornish china clay operations on a down-at-heel branch line, inspired by the Carbis branch. Built as a shunting layout, it is compact with the senic part only 40 inches in length. Costs are kept to a minimum by utilising one base board frame, wire and other materials recovered from old layouts. The track is Peco Code 55 and and the turnouts were bought second hand. For good shunting operations, Electrofrog turnouts are used with a simple modification to improve their reliability with DCC power.

Wheal Annah-4
Here’s the frame – recovered from my abandoned EM gauge Dudley Heath Yard project and repaired, strengthened and ready for its new role. Given the rising cost of even poor quality timber and plywood, saving solid and stable baseboard frames is a good idea! Avoid using glue when fitting a new top to the frames. Use only screws which should help with removing tops without damaging the frames when a layout finally meets its end.

Wheal Annah-5
A small shelf to one end provides a safe place for the control equipment. The other end used the fiddle stick borrowed from my more successful N gauge Dudley Heath layout.

Wheal Annah-3
To date, the track is in, hard standing and ballast in place and initial testing complete. The building mock-ups are taped together from old shoe boxes. Point control is ‘wire in tube and the operation will be ‘one engine in steam’. The old platform is likely to be modelled in abandoned condition with the occasional staff or inspection train consisting of the Class 122 making a run up the branch.

Wheal Annah-2
Looking towards the end of the branch and more cardboard building mock-ups. The clay works buildings are angled in relation to the back drop for greater visual interest. The branch line also angles across the baseboard to provide a little more room for the passing loop. The layout will have two operating eras: BR Sectorisation and Pre-1980s. It seems the the Kernow Model Rail Centre special edition clay hoods have come along at just the right time!

 


Dudley Heath’s new staging stick…

November 21, 2012

…is now operational! Here’s an update picture of the result during testing. The two tracks are long enough to hold the model of the 5 plus 2 NMT built from Dapol Mk.3 trailers, the longest train to run on Dudley Heath. It opens up operations dramatically for running local trains and the EWS Executive train too!


N Gauge developments

August 19, 2012

Despite the long silence from me on the N gauge front, work has continued on Dudley Heath, my little portable N gauge layout which has appeared at Doncaster and Ally Pally this year (project in progress). Just commissioned and placed in service is a 5-car NR New Measurement Train model based on the Dapol HST NMT train pack and five rebuilt Dapol Mk.3 trailers. The original plan was to use Electra Railway Graphics overlays on Graham Farish Mk.3 stock. Before work commenced, a set of etched conversion parts for six NMT trailers arrived, out of the blue; kindly sent to me by Pete Harvey.

No disrespect to Adam Warr – his vinyl sides are really good and I have a number of converted coaches (and one wagon) running on Dudley Heath. There are more to add to the roster – the Class 310 or 312 in West Midlands livery is very tempting indeed! (RFM below is one of the Mk.3s I have converted using Adam’s sides.) He also kindly produced Folkestone East name boards in NSE style for me; both sun faded and full colour.

However, I had three Dapol Mk.3 trailers surplus to requirements  – blue grey ones with no immediate use leaving only two to buy. Also, I fancied having a go at a different type of conversion in N gauge. The results are pretty reasonable, except colour matching to Dapol’s version of NR yellow was not easy nor was it a precise match in the end. A 5-car set is also a big project to complete, hence the relatively long periods between posts on here – there’s not been a lot to report of late.

Detailing of Dudley Heath continues on several fronts including signals and line side equipment. The Graham Farish Class 350 will find a home on the layout too, after I have closed up the coupling gaps between the trailers! A fine model in its own right, it adds further modern West Coast flavour to the layout. The foot bridge was a complex beastie to scratch build but despite that, I am not totally satisfied with the result (some filling, repainting, detailing and weathering will improve its appearance dramatically). I will probably have another go at building it once the layout reaches a sort of ‘finished’ stage. I will finish the layout to a good enough standard and then go back and rework bits of it, in between work on Folkestone East and the Montana Rail Link layout. In the meantime, Dudley Heath lives safely in its box under the MRL layout, safe from dirt and dust until I get the urge to play with N gauge British outline models once again. Then out it comes!


Ally Pally next…and lift-out scenic panels.

March 13, 2012

Eddie Reffin, my fellow operator, is good at the ‘what if’ scenarios. He is also also a very good operator, a shrewd observer of modelling life and a very talented modeller too. He quickly identified a problem with the hidden staging yard on Dudley Heath. When something goes wrong under the scenery, sorting it out turned out to be awkward, as realised when the layout was exhibited at Doncaster last month. Despite the best track laying I could manage, my usually optimistic take on things and a determination to ‘make it work’; one or two errors with running trains in and out of the hidden staging yard disrupted the smooth flow of trains a couple of times. So, on my return, I ripped out the scenery that I had started and had a go at lift out panels.

Made of hard board, they are light weight and strong. hardboard is ideal because it can be bent to gentle curves and easily cut and shaped to fit awkward areas too. However, disguising the flat appearance it has requires some texture. I used hanging basket liner, cut into small pieces, trimmed and glued into place as an initial under layer of scenery.

The flat appearance of the lift out sections is being well covered with texture. Woodland Scenics fine turf is sparingly applied over the top using firm hold hair spray to secure it. Tress and bushes follow – snipped up pieces of Woodland Scenics foliage.

At the time of writing, the work on this side of the layout is nearly complete. The platforms are in the paint shop for a first coat of light grey; station lamps are being made up and I have dozens of little figures to add to the layout too.

It should all be nicely glued down by the time the car has to be loaded for the long haul to Wood Green and Alexandra Palace! And that hidden staging yard is now completely accessible. You know, there won’t be a single derailment in those staging sidings and those panels will stay in place the whole time!


I am no artist…

February 17, 2012

…and that back scene on Folkestone East was something of a challenge (scary nightmare). My first attempt at it was made last November…


I lived with it for around two months until, two days after Christmas, I decided I hated it! The hillside colours, even for a hazy south coast day, did not work at all. From the pencil line on the paint, I was clearly still tinkering with it when the photograph of the Class 47/3 above was taken.

Attempt number two and I think the colours are better. One of the key things is shading the landscape colours down so they are very pale and subtle. This can be done either by adding white or by applying a white wash over the finished scene. The colours are still a little too vibrant in the distance. However, the chalk hills over the real Folkestone East really do crowd the location. That said, the back scene cannot be too dominant on a layout.

Whilst an artist or one of those really talented modellers I regularly meet on the circuit would probably do a much better job, the result from last Christmas looks much better. I sort of like it…sort of…

The darker green representing foreground trees was matched to the ones at the far end of the layout. Those on the hillsides do contrast sharply with the chalk downland grasses in real life. I need to create some subtle shadow around them and do a better job of defining the slopes.

When viewing the work so far, bear in mind several points. The track is a mere 3 inches from the back drop. Also, there will be trees and bushes planted on the embankment behind the track which will partially conceal the painted industrial buildings. Finally, the layout development is being undertaken from the back towards the front, so until that back scene is complete and the scenery planted, no work will be undertaken on the foreground area.

I go through phases of doing a little work, sitting back to check the results, deciding I hate it and redoing it! Eventually, I have to settle on something or be forever reworking scenes! Discovering (for myself because I am sure it’s not an original idea by any means) a dry brushing method of colouring ballast without flooding it with paint means I will be not using darker grains when placing ballast from now on.

As an aside, the 4-Cep model is No.1699, one of the SWT ‘Greyhound’ ones transferred to Ramsgate in the last months of Cep operation on the South Eastern. The model has the orange line painted out, just like the prototype. The conductor rail remains to be installed. I really must get to it!