Roads and Grass

Slowly slowly makey dioramaee…

Onwards we creep, this time to roads and basic landscaping. Once the trackbed was in, but before laying any track, I cut out a suitable road bed from greyboard, gave it a gentle camber by bending it along the middle, and stuck it down onto a layer of gripfill. I made the road ~60mm/15 ft wide, which seemed reasonable for a country lane in the 1930s. The base landscaping was then built up with sculptamold, mixed in with some muddy brown acrylic paints to tone it down. Once the track was in, I came back to the road, coated it in a light grey emulsion (I forget the colour now — one of the tester pots we considered for the hallway a few years ago!) and then covered it in polyfilla powder. This is – as far as I understand it – the Pendon method for representing compacted chalk roads. After a while the polyfilla was knocked off, and then the surface gently weathered with some pastels. I think it will need a bit more in due course.

The sculptamolded ground was painted with a grey/brown acrylic mix — took a few attempts to get a grey-brown I was happy with. It was then covered in sieved dried earth and sealed in with a spray of diluted matte “mod podge”.

For the grass, I did the area under the platform first. This had a heavier application of earth, and then a few tufts of 4–6mm dried grass whizzed over on random spots of full strength PVA. I’m fairly happy with the effect here, though it doesn’t show up too well on the photo. I then did the bits inside the railway fence, and used a slightly longer and dryer mix (I forget which now, some combo of Greenscene and Noch I think) to represent the more scraggly grass which seems typical of these areas.

Outside the fence, behind the halte, I used mainly a single colour to try and recreate a fairly well grazed sheep pasture. Just after applying the static grass (2 mm summer from Greenscene I think), I knocked down random areas with my finger, and dragged a screwdriver along to represent a well worn path which you seem to see in these fields. Once dry, I gave it another light coat with 6mm stray to add the longer dry stems which presumably the sheep find less tasty — not sure this worked very well though :-\ I think I may need to go back and dry brush some of the grass tips to highlight them. Some more dry grass was added along the fence line in a couple of passes. All the grass was given a dusting of sieved earth again to knock off any shininess.

The scene has a little ditch running through the front. It is slowly being filled with many coats of varnish, which makes it look like there’s a leak at the local creamery, but does dry clear! Not too happy with the representation of last year’s dried reeds — I’ve decided to look again at these once the ditch is full.

So road and grass coverings in. Next steps are the structures (platform, crossing keeper’s cottage, crossing gates, and fencing), and then attempting some shrubbery and a tree…


EM track work

Well lock downs don’t really bring me any extra time. I’m fortunate that I have a job which is unaffected – at least on a day-to-day basis – by restrictions. It has – for its own reasons – been very hectic for the past six months, and will be until at least January. So modelling progress continues at its glacial rate.

Anyway, getting back on track… as mentioned in the last gripping instalment, I ended up with a host of EM tracking making supplies. I’ve made a bit of PCB track before, but this was my first go at ply+rivet+chair. Rice was consulted, and the sleepers (pre-punched to P4 dimensions) stained in a mix of black and brown India ink. It took a lot of iteration to get a tone I was happy with.

Staining plywood sleepers
Staining plywood sleepers with a dilute mix of india inks

Every fourth sleeper had a brass rivets inserted and peened over. The track bed is a layer of 5mm foamboard, chamfered at the edge to give a gentle shoulder, and then topped with a templot print out to give the sleeper spacing. The whole lot was washed in a mix of grey acrylics before the sleepers were stuck down with PVA. The cess was given a thicker coat, and dusted in talc to try and represent walked-on ash.

Trackwork construction
P/way gang lay the sleepers through the crossing.

Ballast is chinchilla dust, which I think makes a decent representation of a rather fine warm stone ballast. To give a bit of variation, I stained some chinchilla dust with dilute acrylic paint, drying it out again in a low oven. I did try ballasting at the same time as laying the sleepers, but the ballast didn’t really take properly. So I reverted to laying after the sleepers and bonding it with IPA + dilute PVA. The darker chinchilla dust was mixed in at random to give a ‘well loved’ patchiness to the track bed.

Chinchilla dust ballast

Rail is steel code 75 bullhead from C&L, which I had in stock for another project. The C&L (I think?) chairs I had were old, and the plastic quite brittle. It took a few attempts to develop a threading technique that didn’t destroy 70% of the chairs!! A well filed toe lead on the rail, and a gentle clearing of the chairs with a knife helped greatly. I’m afraid I gave up on the ideal ‘alternate keys’ structure for two way track…

Chairs were then spread as appropriate for the sleepers, and track aligned on the rivets. One side soldered first, and judged straight with a ruler. The other side then set with gauges and soldered. I figured soldering first would allow me to correct wiggles more easily. Once I was happy, I bonded the chairs to the plywood with mekpak.

Then it was a job of adding in chairs to cover up the rivets. On one side this was easy, but the P4 ‘gauge’ of the rivets meant the other side was much tougher. A combo of scraping and melting got most chairs on, but I can’t say I’m very proud of the result :-\ Masokits fishplates were glued on (for fear of melting the chairs with an iron), and little nicks made for the rail joints. Not very well according to the photo!

Trackwork construction
Very aged moulded two bolt chair and masokits etched fishplates

The track and chairs were then painted with a random mix of Humbrol #33 (black), #62 (grey), #64 (leather), and #82 (orange). A dilute mix was spread over the ballast in patches, with particular concentrations under the rails and around the fish plates (more black to represent grease/oil).

Painted track, with some dilute enamel wash under the rails and around the fish plates

Next stage is a the base scenery and the road…

An EM diversion

Well, it was bound to happen wasn’t it… I live in Western country, I have a blog with a Western name, I spend every other weekend restoring Western engines — I’ve been Swindon’d!

14xx and autocoach

Doesn’t get any more GWR than a 48xx and an autocoach

What really happened, m’lud, was actually far more random and a lot nicer.  Back in January my model railway club received a very generous offer of 4mm rolling stock from a late modeller’s widow.  We get offers of old stock regularly, which we can’t accept lest we become a second hand dealer rather than model railway club — but it was clear this stock was a bit different.  It had obviously been modelled with considerable skill and care, and being a mix of 1930s GWR/SR was a perfect fit for one of the club layouts.  As the club’s point of contact, I went to collect the donation, and came away with three full stock boxes and a host of other modelling paraphernalia.

Atlantic Coast Express

A short section of the ACE makes its way across the dining table

On closer inspection, the stock was in fact all EM gauge, and very nicely built by a ‘builder’ rather than a ‘runner’.  A little bit of remedial work is needed before we can use the coaches & wagons on the club’s OO layout (new wheelsets, interior painting, a bit of weathering, and added weight). The loco stock probably isn’t suitable for conversion, and would benefit an EM layout.  In the other boxes was everything one needs to build a functional layout too;  sleepers, rail, gauges and chairs (two bolt, of course)…  I’ve been wondering about trying EM for a while – so this really was too obvious a sign to ignore!

As I’d enjoyed building my tiny 2mm diorama, I thought something similar in EM would be a good choice.  So I have started on “Lees Crossing Halte” – named in recognition of the original modeller. It is very simple, 600mm of straight track with a typical GWR wooden halt(e), level crossing, and associated keeper’s house.  It is roughly based on Wainhill crossing on the Watlington branch, with some changes to push the location more towards a fictional branch line through the Vale of White Horse.

Lees Crossing Halte - mock up

Mock-up of Lees Crossing Halte

Work is a little bit more advanced than the above suggests. I will add some more detailed posts on different bits in due course.

A piece of tarp

Following the incident of the mistakenly painted wagon, I’ve gone on a bit of push to actually finish a bunch of wagons that have been sitting around on the workbench forever. First in the line was a old Parkside 3-plank, which was one of the first kits I ever built some 18+ years ago! It needed a bit of tarting up to finish, and I decided it was a good subject to practice hiding under a tarpaulin.

This page has lots of useful information on tarps : . Instead of printing anything, I tried the basic ‘ink soaked cartridge paper’ technique. I have not bothered to letter the tarp, which is a bit of limit, but we’ll pretend it has been very heavily faded or something (and probably replace it at some point).  I found it best to stain the paper first, and the crumple up afterwards – it gives a better effect of the creases being more faded.

The tarp was then soaked with dilute PVA and fitted over the wagon (suitably protected in cling film), and left to dry hard in shape.  ‘Ropes’ (thread) were bonded on with superglue. The picture shows a previous version of attaching the ropes before shaping the tarp to the wagon, which didn’t work very well!


Bonding ‘ropes’ onto the ‘tarp’. This dates the kit – when did you last buy a Parkside kit for £4.50!!

The fitted tarp is in snugged up over the weathered wagon, and the ropes secured underneath with superglue. I didn’t go to the effort of tying them off properly.  Anyway, the end result is not brilliant, but I think passable.  I don’t feel it really conveys the weight of the trap.


A tarp’d up wagon. OK for trundling along in a goods train I think… 

Given the rather basic  nature of the underlying model, I’m not sure it’s worth a huge amount more effort to polish this one up… Though looking at this picture I can see some bits of painting on the underframe that need touched up :-\  And yet again I’ve taken care to model numbering as done by the works apprentice on the first day on the job…

T*tsup Thursday

The wagon I started painting red before applying a PO livery


The wagon I meant to start painting red before applying a PO livery


Got confused between my Parkside 12 ton mineral kits 😦  Top one is PC69 (end door and angle iron end stays) and was meant to represent an well weathered LMS wagon. Bottom one is PC73 (fixed ends, side door only) and needs to be private owner.

I think it would take too many coats to get back to the bare wood effect, so I’m currently debating whether just to buy another PC69 kit, or to set about it with paint stripper — which will probably result in me having to buy another PC69 kit…


2mm diorama

A whole year ago, I bought the little 2mm association ‘sampler kit’ of a 16 ton mineral wagon and some track. For £8.50, this is a brilliant way to try out a new scale.  I decided the best way to exploit this would be to build a little diorama. The kit only comes with 6 inches of track, so that limited options a bit! After looking around for some inspiration, I found an interesting corner of the Lasswade goods yard in on my favoured Esk valley branch lines. Here the track to the goods shed runs at a lower level behind the platform, giving a nice contained scene.


The basic 2mm 16 ton kit before painting

I built the wagon first. I’ve never built an etched chassis before, but this seemed to go together fairly smoothly – though I still have to work out how to do the coupling hooks properly…  The close up photos are cruel on the detail level, but in real life it looks great of course. The wheelbase here is of course only 18mm! Painting followed the Martyn Welsh method for steel wagons; a rusty undercoat of brown, orange, and talc, followed by spots of maskol and a covering of grey top coat. Once that is dry, the top coat is picked/rubbed back to reveal rusty patches.  First time I’ve tried the technique, and I can see it being very effective in 4-7mm scale. In 2mm, I think the talc adds a bit too much texture – but again it’s good from ‘normal’ distance.  Transfers for lines and numbers were added from the Cambridge Custom Transfers range. I’ve not weathered these in much, as in many of the prototype photos the lines/numbers seem pretty clear even if the paint underneath is heavily corroded. Presumably the key information was repainted more regularly!


A simple diorama based on a corner of Lasswade goods yard

The diorama itself is built on an offcut of MDF. I built up the platform (at the back) from foamboard, glued the 6″ of track down, and covered the lot in DAS modelling clay.  I was worried this had completely ruined the track, but after quite a bit of poking, prodding, and cleaning with a fibre brush, the painted & weathered result does look quite like yard ash ballast.

The goods shed is only roughly based on Lasswade.  The carcass of the shed is just greyboard, covered in slaters embossed plasticard. I happened to have some 2mm ‘rough stone’ (bought in error), which seems typical of stations a bit further into the Scottish borders. The door is scribed into some plain 20thou sheet.  The pitched roof, very typical of Scottish railways, is a bit too steep (40 degrees) – but I didn’t want to make it again! It’s just made out of cereal box card, covered with strips 80 gsm paper nicked to represent the slates. Unlike my 4mm buildings I painted the slates after fitting – which was much easier!


Building up the fence from 10x40thou microstrip

The fence behind the platform, at the top of the slope, was build from lots of short strips of 10x40thou microstrip. The ‘verticals’ were assembled on some (detacked) double sided sticky tape before the ‘horizontals’ (I’m sure there is a proper name!) were bonded on.  Once assembled the whole lot was painted with enamels in a mix of browns and greys.  The other side is painted in an LNER cream colour. The posts plant into small holes in the foamboard.

I covered the slope in 2mm static grass, with a bit of 6mm added in for variety. I wanted to keep the feel of thin straggly grass you get in that sort of area. I think it’s worked OK, but perhaps needs a bit more variety in shades.  The grass was covered in sieved earth to knock the shine off.


Almost the end on view which inspired the whole idea!

Overall I’m pretty happy with how this has turned out. There is a bit more to add; some junk in the yard, and some details on the platform. I really want to get a figure leaning against the fence reading a paper, but I haven’t seen anything appropriate yet.

Most of all though, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed building this! It’s not been quick (I never claimed I was!). I’ve been pootling away at it since September.  I think the kit achieved it’s aim, and I’m definitely interested in doing some more 2mm modelling in the future. I think though another small diorama type scene with my 4mm stock beckons first…

Where in the world?

Some might have heard of “What Three Words” lately — a way of identifying your global location to within 3m by three random words — a kind of latitude and longitude for the cartographically challenged.

So I wondered if “Two.Bolt.Chair” existed (it does! mostly), and where it is? …  It turns out to be a non-descript bit of scrub/bog in Northern Ontario, Canada…  Oh well, I guess Old Oak Common was too hopeful! I should be 70% grateful it wasn’t just in the ocean…

Something finally done!

I’ve finally managed to get a project done and off the workbench! I’ve been not working much on an overbridge for the club layout for the past 18 months. As the base scenery has now reached the bridge location, I had to push on…  I made a card+paper mock-up last year, which showed the final bridge needed to be wider and flatter (it’s on a skew and an angle, of course). It is based – roughly – on this prototype at Dinmore tunnel;


Card mock-up of the bridge covering exit-stage-right on Pentre Road

The final version was built around a grey-board core, covered in embossed stone plasticard. The arches were cut and scribed from plain plasticard (and the judiciously filled around the edges!).  The raised course (at road level) was made from a section of 60thou strip, with some embossed plasticard carefully stuck on top. In future I’d just scribe into the strip.


Assembled and covered bridge before painting

The bridge was primed and painted with a mix of humbrol enamels. I almost bollocked the whole lot up using an acrylic wash to do the render lines (it’s worked on other models!).  A fairly heavy over-brushing with more enamels recovered it though.  The base colour is Humbrol 250 (a vaguely sandy colour I had it in stock), with individual stones picked out in lighter and darker shades. A grubby drybrush all over added a bit more life.

And here it is installed on the layout this evening:


Installed on the layout. More work to do to bed it in, particularly the roadways!

Fortunately the prototype did it’s job of ensuring the running clearance — a King at full chat passes without scratching it’s outside cylinders (just!).

More work to do on the surrounding land to make it match in properly. I’ll probably also go at it with some powders once it’s set in, but for now I’m at least feeling happy to get something off the bench and onto the layout!  Now, I’m sure I put a box full of signals somewhere….

(Very) South Western

Work travels have pretty much put paid to any modelling over the past few months, but not entirely to trains 🙂   For the last few weeks I’ve been in Chile for work.  Chile has a long history of railways (Ferrocarriles), and being basically the shape of a railway line, you’d expect it to be ideally suited to them.  Alas various social/political/financial changes over the last 60 years have seen their decline, and only a shadow the former network(s) remain.

There is a small museum of old Chilean engines in Santiago, and for 1000CHP (~£1.30) it’s a fun hour wandering around.  There are no operational engines, but the external static displays are kept in reasonable condition; probably helped by the favourable Chilean weather. The explanations are mainly in dual Spanish and English — I fear they know their market, and our national reputation for liking all things train precedes us!


Baldwin 4-6-0 #211 from 1896.

Most of the engines are of American pedigree, with a few British and German engines in the mix.  Chile has/had a mix of gauges : 1m gauge in the North, and 5’6″ (“Indian”) broad gauge in the South.  First engine on the scene is a lovely broad gauge goods engine from 1896. Note the flangeless centre drivers, which seem to be quite common on Chilean engines. It’s positioned over a full depth pit, so you can get under and see the interesting bits.


Underneath #211. Big vacuum cylinder up front, with inside Stephenson valve gear on the rear axle. The ashpan dampers still work 🙂

Some of the Southern express engines were monsters… This one needed a mechanical stoker as the fireman couldn’t keep up with the 120lb/mile firing rates! (for comparison, a Gresley Pacific needed ~55-60lb/mile, and a GWR Castle about 45-50lb/mile).


ALCO 4-8-2 engine #1110 from 1940

One of the more ‘challenging’ routes in Chile was the trans-Andean railway to Mendoza in Argentina. It was powered by Leeds-built Kitson-Meyer 0-8-6-0 tanks, which climbed to a summit tunnel at over 3000m using adhesion, supplemented with rack-and-pinion for the steeper sections (up-to 1:13!).  The route operated until 1984, though not with steam.


Kitson-Meyer 0-8-6-0T mountain climber. FCTC stands for “Ferrocarril Trans Cordillera” I think.

In the South of Chile, there were many narrow-gauge branches off the main spine route.  One of them still exists as the Temuco-Constitution route — it’s worth the one way trip, but get the bus back!  I can’t imagine this little 2ft gauge engine made great time either, but it is very cute!


600mm (2ft) gauge engine from Southern Chile.

All in all, a nice little museum.  The trip rather bizarrely culminated in having to explain the workings of the engine in dual Spanish/English whilst someone recorded me for their online class… Fortunately it didn’t have to be much more detailed than “Aqui se ponen el carbon” (“they put the coal in here”)…  In the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king indeed…