Remodelling and upgrading of the Folkestone East layout continues.

April 10, 2017

Thumpers take a spin over the layout. It is run as the real location would be run in both the BR Sectorisation and post-privatisation eras. It is also home to my EMU and DEMU fleet, whether they are suitable for the location being modelled or not!

Remodelling of my EM gauge Folkestone East is making progress, having reached that ‘nothing looks finished’ chaotic stage. To recap, the work commenced with rebuilding the key cross-over from the down line to the yard and branch turn-back sidings. This required the removal of the Up staff halt platform and signalling to allow room to work on the new track and to allow for the slight remodelling of the track at that location. No.6 curved turnouts were replaced with longer No. 8 turnouts making the track run in a smoother arc in the curves and through the turnouts. The new track can be seen in the image below.

The flats which can be seen at the Ashford end of the real location have been built and in the process of detailing – fitting windows etc. The buildings are loose fitted to the layout and will be removable once the scenery is complete to suit particular date and time stamps, so to speak. Furthermore, they will be partially screened by weed trees growing on the embankment. The actual structures are slightly smaller than scale  – the real ones being set a little further back from the lineside.

Two of the most challenging structures to build include Folkestone East signal box (above) and the electricity sub station (which will be located more or less opposite this scene). The box might appear to be of a simple design. However, there are elements of it that are quite challenging to work out, including the sun shields. The interior has been left clear to allow me to model the panel.

The box is situated on the old demolished Down platform of Folkestone East station. A short length of platform survives as a staff halt as it does on the Up side as mentioned above. Note how the box is set into the demolished platform with a low retaining wall.


The back drop has been pushed back about three inches to make room for some more low relief buildings including the end of the terrace houses on the street leading to the signal box. The end of an small industrial building is to be added too. Yes, the layout is seeing quite some remodelling, but I hope the extra effort will be worth it. The new cross-over track has already brought much benefit in improved running over what is already a pretty reliable layout. The signal box is reaching the painting and detailing stage. Already, I am eyeing up the construction of baseboards for the harbour branch.



More scenery and back drop painting experiments…

October 23, 2011

The real challenge for my modelling skills has been the painting of back drops on my Top Deck layout to look something like the high chalk downs overlooking the Folkestone area. Even with the help of reference photographs, it was always going to be an ‘interpretation’. I am no artist and was hopeless at art in school, so it was either keep the back drop white in colour or take a deep breath and have a go! The key was matching the summer colours of the Woodland Scenics to the artists acrylic paints currently available from my local art supplies shop and finding the right paint brushes for stippling etc. The pictures shown here were taken as work proceeded so I could examine my efforts away from the layout and identify problems with my work. I can always find plenty of those, but have to temper expectation with skill level!

This layout is the third deck of a three-deck layout, positioned 70 inches from the floor. It’s a shelf layout design, so to enable me to reach all areas of it, is relatively narrow at 22 inches wide. The main line tracks leading into Martello Tunnel at this point are only 3 inches from the back drop. How to achieve a good blend between three-dimensional scenery and the back drop with its high hills was also something that occupied much thinking time!

Thankfully, the real location has a lot of scrubby trees and gorse on the hills, so I have a great deal more painting to do on the back scene which will help with perspective. Also to be added is the distant outline of various buildings, mostly houses, on the hillside and partly concealed by trees. That is why the back drop looks relatively bare at the moment. My aim at this stage was to assess the blend between scenery and back drop and already these pictures show the need for darker shadows under the painted trees to create more contrast.

The blue Class 47 is a new addition to the fleet…a ViTrains model simply repainted and weathered to run as part of my early to mid 1980s fleet. The ballast colour is a bit uniform, but when the shot was taken, it had just been placed and glued!

My faithful white 4-Cig No. 1742 emerges from the tunnel portal running in the Up direction. Ideally, the far corner of the back drop boards should be coved. However, the number of trees to be placed on the hill over the tunnel will disguise that. The scenery materials, glues etc sitting in the back ground are occupying the space to be used for the three train roads and three berthing sidings, Whilst they run back beyond the tunnel portal, which is contrary to the full size location where they end just beyond and curving away from the portal, I could not afford to loose the train road length, hence the compromise! The main line curves away round the back of the room after entering the tunnel; space being needed for the 48 inch radius curve. I shall dress the resulting hillside above the train roads at this point with shrubs and some chalk exposed between the greenery to finish it.

There is a bit of white chalk cliff showing on the back drop in this view and the side section will have more tress painted in together with an outline of the Martello tower on the skyline. There will be more buildings painted in too, mostly the upper storeys and roof lines. I am yet to find the right colours…

When the back drop painting, track ballasting and scenery work along the rear area of the layout is complete, I will commence work on laying track on the bare boards to the front of the scene. In the meantime, there has been changes to the way I operate the Top Deck layout…the incumbent Lenz equipment is being changed for radio control which will make operation of the Top Deck much easier! More on that soon!


Hornby’s 4-Vep breaks cover…

August 12, 2011

Despite the usual frenzied preparation for an exhibition – St. Andrews this weekend – time was found to set up the lights to photograph Hornby’s new 4-Vep EMU on my EM gauge Folkestone East layout. Looking at the bogies, the use of internal bearings and blind axles, together with the use of a non-standard axle diameter, conversion to EM gauge may prove challenging! For the moment, pictures are staged by balancing the OO gauge wheels on the rails – just about get away with it.

Although an enthusiastic follower of the Network South East era, the plain 1970s BR blue version (above), with its orange curtains and aluminium window frames looks far better to my eye – whilst a drab-looking livery, it suits the model well.

Martello Tunnel portal at the Dover end of the layout. The 4-Vep is an important ‘signature’ unit for the layout. A key release for this year as far as I am concerned! It will work alongside my old 1980s vintage 4-Vep built from an MJT conversion kit.

Round the curve from the Folkestone Central direction – the curve is brought closer to Folkestone East on the layout so it would all fit my available space. Based on the months of test running, there are plans to revise the rear fiddle yards a little, to further facilitate the running of EMUs.

Folkestone East signal box needs finishing too! But, with the main exhibition season coming on, I may be a little pushed, so making progress on the layout may require some creative time management!

Tunnel Portal

April 30, 2011

Modelling civil engineering features is one of my favourite layout building past times. It’s no coincidence that I tend to choose layout themes with more infrastructure features than buildings; Platform4a & 4b being a notable exception. Folkestone East upholds this tradition. I have to build just three buildings for the main part of the layout: the signal box and relay room; an equipment building and the substation which supplies current to the conductor rail. Should I consider building part of the branch, structures will be needed for that too, but time will tell! The main civil engineering structure on the layout is Martello Tunnel located in the Dover direction. I have just a few fuzzy archive pictures of this, taken years ago, but enough to establish the main features of the tunnel portal and the overall shape too. There will be in accuracies, I am sure, but given the inaccessibility of the location, it’s the best I can do!

Work started with a scaled template of the portal opening which has a distinct shape.

A start was made with styrene card which has the opening cut in it to check for clearances and shape. The shape of the opening was not quite right at this stage, so more work, particularly at the top, was completed at the work bench.

Looking better, with a Heljan Class 47 undertaking clearance tests. A ‘tubby duff’ is an ideal candidate for this work because, with adjustments notwithstanding, they remain the widest vehicles in my fleet.

Brickwork has been applied to the portal and its position finally determined with a spirit level. Woodland Scenics plaster cloth has been used to complete land forming behind the tunnel entrance.

Completed ready for painting and scenery. The area alongside the chalk hillside (red arrow) is where the turn back roads will lead off to terminate at the end of the layout. Both the roads and three berthing sidings end adjacent to the tunnel entrance at the real location. However, I would waste around 2-feet of length if I did such a thing, and that length is needed because the tunnel itself hides the left curve in the mainline as it heads back to one of the two fiddle yards! Such design compromises require careful scenic treatment so they work, yet it allows an additional two coach lengths enabling the layout to comfortably accommodate 8 plus 2 charter train sets or 2 by 4-car EMUs plus 2 MLVs or an MLV plus TLV depending on the era I am running! I could go for longer trains, but extended train length would look out of place relative to the overall size of the layout and the length compression needed to fit it in my cabin.

I have found a couple more images of the portal since finishing it, equally as fuzzy and grainy as those I worked from. One image does indicate that the right hand side buttress may not be angled – difficult to tell with the shadows. Nonetheless, I will stick with the one I have built (I like the symmetry) and can modify it in the future should really clear pictures turn up. Scenery is next!

Awkward corner…

February 14, 2011

It’s an awkward corner indeed. My mainline HAS to curve at this point to reach the Top Deck layout fiddle yard and avoid a direct run through the wall into my neighbours field. In the back ground is the access to four staging yard roads representing the ‘Dover’ end of the run, which should not be seen under normal viewing distances. I have made progress in this area in recent weeks as my desire to deal with this awkward corner has grown (hence the lack of updates here). The picture above was taken last year after track laying of the main line was completed. It’s a large area to fill with scenery and the proper Folkestone East location has a short platform for staff to use at this location, which must be included. On the real location, it is straight. Mine has to be on the  curve…

Progress as of a few weeks ago (above), as reported in my blog. Conductor rail remains to be installed.

The corner as of this morning after application of more Woodland Scenics fine leaf foliage, static grass and bushes made up of coarse turf applied to sea foam stems. All glued in with a mixture of scenic cement and ‘extra firm’ hold hair spray. It’s go to sit for a few days to completely settle before tidying up and installation of the conductor rail, turnout motor boxes and some weathering of the ballast. There’s some brick work around the platform ramp to complete too, and note the bare wall behind the scene. There’s a form of a ‘wooded’ back scene to fit which has texture applied to try and show continuation of line side foliage. This should disguise the entrance to the ‘Dover’ fiddle yard. It’s removable to allow access to the turnouts for repairs and in case of derailments, yet will not be too obvious when this end of the layout is photographed. In reality, the tall trees and shrubbery is more of a modern feature of the line side as tree growth has only been allowed to grow relatively unchecked in recent years. Back dating to my planned early 1980s running theme, which represents the transition era between refurbished and unrefurbished 4-Ceps, means the tree growth is too high. I have to change a few details on the layout for that running theme, but the trees have to stay. They are more appropriate to my 1993 and 2003 running themes (the stock is changed over between running evenings running evening depending on the choice of era for the session).  Those trees, despite what purists might think, are the best scenic break for that end of the layout! I can live with that compromise.

With so much ground to cover to produce, I use a mixture of Woodland Scenics fine leaf foliage and sea foam. The latter is shown above during another session yesterday where I was using the odds and ends left over from tree-making to produce material for shrubs and weedy sapling trees. As much as I would love some specimen trees from The Model Tree Co., line side trees at Folkestone East are all weed trees…

The sea foam pieces are dunked in diluted (5:1) matte medium (A) using a deep plastic jug (B) first to strengthen them before painting. Normally, when making trees like this, they would be hung out to dry with a weight on the end to straighten them whilst the matte medium dries. These pieces, especially the larger but poor pieces (C) are destined to be snipped up into smaller pieces for shrubs or to be piled on top of each other to create banks of close growing weed trees, using cocktail sticks as support. After drying, they will be painted dark brown and then dunked in matte medium once again so coarse turf in medium green can be applied. Smaller pieces can be clumped together to make a thicker bush material (D) instead of being wasted. The remaining diluted matte medium is not returned to the original bottle but is stored in a separate container (E). At the time of writing, the treated pieces are sitting by my paint booth after painting dark brown.

Scenery work like this can take a great deal of time, especially allowing for the modelling of the staff halt platform and I am glad to be finishing off this end of the layout so I can move onto the Folkestone East signal box area.