Refurbishing an old 4mm scale friend...and adding a tree or two.

Many moons ago, I wrote a blog entry about a surprise barn find and the traction engine I'd like to find within. The sentiments expressed remain the same, I'd still like to find something similar in a deserted farm somewhere, but it's unlikely, even though I am on the hunt constantly. I must learn to content myself with making models. This one was made for a customer who brought it back to me recently for refurbishment and possible use on the Greater Hemyock layout. I sat looking at it and became enthused again, thinking that it needed new doors, and that the textures of the wood were non-existant, while the rust textures and roof finish left a lot to be desired. I'm really glad I spent a couple of days tricking it up again and detailing it, to the point where the traction engine inside (a Matchbox Allchin) is a bit crude looking...but, a precious heirloom itself, it will stay now forever inside the crumbling edifice.  I worked over the wood parts, a mixture of veneer and card, with a dental burr, then dry-brushing, working back with meths and dry brushing again until the wood looked to my satisfaction. The rust on the roof was several mixes of Burnt Sienna and yellow ochre crafter's acrylics, with a little Humbrol "rust" added here and there. The rust holes were bored with the Dremel and filed off with various miniature needle files. Pastels were finally wafted over the whole lot in delicate brushing motions, then almost all taken off again, leaving a patina of age (hopefully). The new doors are from styrene, scribed to represent wood and distressed.

Here's the nearest thing I've come to finding a traction engine so far...a horsedrawn trap in a deserted farm in North Wales...just look at that lovely junk!

Roots and Branches
I could put off the evil moment no longer. Some trees were required for the Whitehall board and I had to attempt to make them. I had always been discouraged after seeing those wonderful trees by Bob Barlow in the MRJ, by Illiffe Stokes, by the Gravetts...and numerous other folk all better than me. I decided that while my attempt wouldn't be a patch on those masterpieces, I was going to have a go, otherwise I would be no better than the countless people on forums who talk a good model but actually make nothing. After all, the models by the greats are there to inspire, not discourage.

So. The first thing was to find some wire thin enough. I had bought a big pile of straight lengths from Ebay about two years ago, it was sold as fine jewellers wire and I found it useful for the wire runs you see on many of my models.  It's quite malleable and looks to be some form of mild steel, not jeweller's wire, but ideal for 4mm forestry operations. I took about ten of the lengths (they are 25cms long) and fixed them together with masking tape. I am sure you have seen this many times on the web and on forums, people solder them together, twist them and tease out clumps of branches five at a time. I won't teach you how to suck eggs or re-invent the wheel.

It was surprisingly easy and I decided to make a Sycamore shape with reference to my Ladybird book of trees, the one with beautiful illustrations by the great S R Badmin. I think the shape is the thing, as I wouldn't be modelling a tree in winter, that is an altogether different level of skill and artistry.  When I was happy with the shape, it looked something like this...

At this point I had teased up a load of rubberised horsehair and attached it to the branches with hot glue. There are lots of flyaway bits that need trimming before the "leaves" are applied. The paper protecting the layout is from the Ikea instructional sheets for flat pack furniture. Petra had been building some drawer units ( I am not allowed to join in as I am so cack-handed, being relegated to making coffee and passing the electric screwdriver!) The horsehair is teased out to within an inch of it's existence before being attached, the idea being to provide a fine substrate for the leaves.

You can use foliage clumps at this point, I have seen them used to great effect. I do have a couple of boxes from Woodland scenics, but prefer to make small shrubs out of those. You might ask, why did he attach this to the layout, why not make it off the board? That would have been a good idea, it just didn't occur to me!  I had the idea to site the tree in the yard, so that the roots were breaking up the surface, like this.

Looks like an out-take from a 50's sci-fi movie...the " day of the twisted wire trees", perhaps...
Perhaps my thought was that this would have been impossible after the leaves were in place, who knows! The surface damage was made with Milliput, as was the trunk of the tree and many of the subsidiary branches. Incidentally, probably blaringly obvious, but trees have grey trunks except when wet, when they are dark grey...sorry, you knew that, I know. I guess Plane trees are different, and Limes, and Spruce trees, and Larches...oh, heck. Best check with the type of tree you are trying to model. I have a Sycamore across the river from my workshop window, so I can be lazy!

OK, the next step was to fix the leaves, and I did this in two stages. Firstly, I sprayed the tree's canopy with Display Mount, while wearing my trusty respirator and having the window open for good measure. I then scattered Noch 07154 Laub, mittelgrun...leaves, to you and me. I note that they are also called "follage", "feuillage" and enigmatically, "loof". I thought the result was rather nice and after an hour, hoovered off the excess loof. Then my nearest and dearest came in and gave the tree an unimpressed look. Now, Petra has a great interest in trees and herbage of all sorts, so this was depressing. She reckoned the leaves were too small, and the wrong colour. Darn. Well, there was only one thing I could do, spray over the top again, fix new, different loof and hope the delicacy wouldn't be lost. I wasn't hopeful.
I used a packet of larger leaves from the now defunct little leaf I wish I'd bought more. They seemed to sit on the tree just fine and looked even more delicate- this was a result! The colour was still not right, though- so once I had allowed the glue to dry, I sprayed the tree lightly with the airbrush using designer's acrylic inks, these are made for airbrush artists and don't clog the machine, unless you are particularly careless or clarty. I mixed up a high-summer olive green shade which again, matched the tree across the mighty Afon Teigl from my window.

And there it is...

Meanwhile, the hut still had to be bedded in. I worked on the scene for quite a while with various iterations of Noch meadow and Silflor materials until the area around the shed looked as if it only ever saw the attentions of the occasional sheep. I wanted it to contrast with over the river, where a herd of pesky Ayrshire milkers grazed.

I then added another tree, this time a birch...

The cows are painted with reference to the Puffin Original "Our Cattle" and from some photographs of my own small herd of Ayrshires back in the last century when I lived on my parent's farm, appropriately, in Ayrshire. Incidentally, cattle have a habit of all facing the same way when contented; they are always found in relation to their status in the herd, unless the herd is stressed or disturbed. When I used to check on them at mid-day from a handy drumlin, I could tell instantly whether anything was wrong by the relative positions and demeanour of the beasties.
The small stream in the photos, I imagine, to be crossed by an old road, now out of used two slate slabs as spans, something I've seen a lot here in Wales. Two chunks of Das, carved and sanded did the job. Hedges are mostly rubberised horsehair sprayed as before and coated in various fine leaf mixtures and colours, then wafted with the airbrush to give a little homogeneity.
I hope you've enjoyed this little rural excursion...I'll close with a view of the shed which isn't seen on the layout, (as it's the other way round now) and a photo of the whole Whitehall board ready to be whisked off to my customer.
The original post about the shed is here.

A Trip to Whitehall- in 4mm.

You will be relieved to hear that I haven't decided to join the beaurocracy.  The title refers to the latest part of the Hemyock saga, which has grown arms and legs, encompassing Culmstock and all places west. One of those places being Whitehall, a nano hamlet hardly any distance out of Hemyock, (or should I say Millhayes, as the real Hemyock is a couple of miles to the south. Don't ask why!)

Of Whitehall, there are one or two photos in the Maggs book and the basic plan is straightforward (a siding). Not exactly Exeter Central. But the discovery, after researching old maps, that the river ran in a branch or leat under the mill as well as in an east-west direction under the railway was a little inconvenient. Elite baseboards had cut the boards and not allowed for this, hardly their fault as nobody had told them. I didn't fancy cutting through the very strong plywood baseboard top, especially as there was wiring underneath, so a rethink was called for. After a discussion, my customer agreed for me to build a Feed store rather than the mill which had been on site. At that point, the genie was well out of the bottle and little departures from strict location accuracy, let's call them anomalies, occured more frequently. Interestingly, I looked on street view and Google earth to get an idea of the site and it's surprising how the various outlines and plots can still be made out. Vestiges of the halt platform were still there a short while ago.
The sign is, of course, run up on the computer. I couldn't call the place anything else, could I? Fences and gates are from Ancorton Models and Model Scenic Supplies. Hens are from Dart Castings, as is the Labradoodle, which I am sure hadn't even been designed in the 1940's...well, I liked the "Scoobydoo" shape !

First off, I thought I'd tackle the Feed store. I had been very taken with the model by my good friend Geoff Forster featured on his "Llangunllo" blog here so thought I would attempt a "Devonised" version for Whitehall. The stone finish would be the kind of flinty rubble found in and around the Blackdown Hills, but hopefully the model retains the character that Geoff had so skilfully imbued his model with.
For the building carcass, construction is the usual: 3mm Foamex, scribed. But what a performance, as all that scratching was very, very time consuming. I got there in the end, although I'm not the man I was. What is it they say, "The older I get, the better I was"...  Anyway, like Geoff, I elected to use Ratio Quoins for the corners. A good decision, they match up so well and give an air of credibility with their uncompromising  precision- and a nice contrast to the walls. I'm not keen on mitreing the corners of the foamex; it pongs and the filings get everywhere; so the quoins solved that one.  The windows, doors and barge boards were  painted with Humbrol acrylic #103 matt, which is a shade I would use all the time if I could get away with it! It just looks rather faded and delicate, and not too strong against the rest of the structure.  Windows were a mixture from my scrapbox, some Geoff Taylor etched ones, some Ratio examples and a couple of cameo-cut ones for good measure. The Lucam was a must-have, and adds so much character to these kind of was easily run up from styrene.

A Monty's Models storeman checks the latest goods outwards while his mate has a cup of tea. The shelter for Whitehall halt can be seen in the background.
The stonework was painted first with "Deco-Art" Crafter's acrylic, light antique white, with a dash of their Burnt sienna in it. That was allowed to dry for a few hours, whereupon I attacked the walls with a sponge, loaded with a mixture of light acrylic colours, mosly warm greys, ochres and siennas. The trick with the sponge is to use the rounded end of a bath sponge. For years I tried to get this technique to work, in theory I always thought it should, but ...I was using a square, flat section.  I don't know why, but  I now realise that the rounded profile really delivers the paint well. I use a corner section about 3cms wide and broad.
The roof was slated with York modelmaking's finest Marchionesses, a good compromise between size, weight and time. I'd already spent too long with the pesky stonework, so it felt good to be making some progress again.

A scrappy "work in progress" view of the rather bare yard, before figures and clutter were added. The shed at the back contains a Langley cart and the oil drums are "RustyStumps" castings.
There were a couple of nondescript buildings to the left of the store, one was in a similar style, so it was back to the grindstone and more scribing! A day later and this was ready for painting, although this time I had taken the frankly daft decision to use brickwork scribed for quoins. Much gnashing of teeth and filling with Milliput! The roof was Will's corrugated iron, suitably carved at the eaves and the doors and windows were from my scrapbox. It isn't really a scrapbox...more like several sets of small drawers with a stock of various things in them...items like doors or gutters or stanchions that I have bought thinking they would come in handy; they generally do. I guess all modellers have a scrapbox, just not as comprehensively (or obsessively ) catalogued perhaps....
The ground around the buildings was textured with Carr's (now discontinued) fine ash ballast, painted with my trusty Humbrol acrylic #64, but with some warm grey gouache and Humbrol #27 thrown in to the mix. I bedded the mill in using torn off clumps of Noch grass mat, #00402, prairie grass. I prefer the Heki product, but it seems to be unavailable now, like all the rest of the most tempting scenic accessories and fibres. Is there a world static grass crisis? The usual suspects like "Summer Meadow" are available, but anything slightly useful or off-piste seems to have disappeared.

Next time, and I promise it won't be long, there will be more rural mutterings and a barn find...

Evening view with tree. The tree was covered with the "Little Leaf Company's" excellent mid green leaves. Guess what? They are discontinued. Luckily I have large stocks! The buffer stop is the excellent Parkside Dundas offering, "BS 13 GWR standard". Not yet discontinued, but it's only a matter of time. I have put in a big order...

Going Large- on the Forge

It's been a while, I know, and my apologies for that. A great deal of life has happened to keep me off the blog, but I won't burden you with that kind of stuff. Suffice to say that I am now working on all cylinders- here's an update to one of the projects on the go at the moment.

Yes, another forge, as if I hadn't had enough with Waylands! Well, this time it's in 1/24th scale and  I have done an awful lot more research, as this was for a customer rather than just a personal flight of fancy. It was to fit in a tight spot, as although my customer's layout is huge, he has filled almost every possible space with trackwork. Always up for a challenge, my mind started working overtime. I had a squarish space of 30cms, just enough for what I wanted to include. Probably enough for a small town in 4mm...

The furnace has a couple of  LEDs which light up the fire through a sheet of clear plastic "firebed". A gimmick, but one that I get a lot of fun out of!
Tools of the trade
There are a few excellent proprietary accessories available and I availed myself of the "Wild West Models" forge set, which comprises a load of lumber for workbenches and some excellent castings. I used the blacksmith's vice and the vertical drill pretty much as they were meant to be assembled, finishing with Humbrol gunmetal and then weathering with dry-brush and powders. Other items I wasn't so happy with and ended up making the hearth from scratch. There are many tools, but most of them just don't look right, needing a lot of fettling or completely rebuilding, so I ended up modelling the hammers and angle cramps myself. Some of the tongs are good, others not so, again, more were fashioned up from wire. The swage block and anvil were ideal, although I did make another swage block as I reckoned one would not be enough.

The steam hammer is completely scratch-built from several layers of 3mm foamex, carved to shape. It was a joy to build and paint. It has yet to be connected up to the steam plant! The workbenches were fun, although they need to be built with accuracy and cutting the basswood was not easy. A miniature circular saw would have the end a piercing saw with a fine blade was used. They were assembled with Resin W glue on templates I had drawn, as inaccuracies with things like this really show, even though they are meant to be cobbled together!  Before painting, I went over the front and tops of the benches with a sharp file to simulate scratches and gouges that would have occurred during use.

The laser-cut date plate on the hammer is from a firm called "Vector Cut" who have a great range of stuff for 7mm scale, worth checking out, and their delivery is as good as some UK suppliers, despite coming from the states!
Cracking up...
Painting them was quite a hit and miss affair until I found a good method. I first painted them with Humbrol 63 and let that dry well. I then went over the whole thing with a thin coat of  "Americana" acrylic "Weathered Wood"...this is a concoction which gives a craquelure effect when a further coat is painted over it. This was left to dry for an hour before the whole thing was then painted over with Humbrol 27 and left to dry again. It crackled away quite subtly, which was fine but the real bonus is that the cracquelure effect kind of destabilises the paint, allowing it to be taken off and smeared with a cotton bud. I helped the process with some meths, applied neat. I then went over the whole thing again, picking out areas with Humbrol dark brown wash, taking more off than I put on, but the effect is really telling as it brings out all the chips and scratches. This is a spirit based product, rather than acrylic. When dry, I sanded down areas here and there to show where the smith would have stood against the bench and worn it smooth.

The magic
As always, with any model, it is the finishing that brings it to life- and I can honestly say that I spent more time painting and whispering at the model than I did building it. I'd made the walls from 5mm foamex and coated them with Polyfilla high adhesion crack filler from a tube...this stuff really does adhere, but dries quickly and pretty hard, so all the texturing must be done when it is in the plastic state. So I went at it with a toothbrush and all sorts of other things that I thought might be interesting, a wire brush and a textured roller, for instance. Then when dry, I sanded the walls lightly and applied paint in just as much of a long-winded way as for the benches, except this time I also used weathering powders. I must really learn to know when to stop...

The Roof
The roof is pretty straightforward, just a series of trusses made from foamex in a Northlight pattern and painted with various dark washes. The glazing is clear plastic, Bayer "Vivak" 2mm, weathered with washes and then brushed over with weathering powders. I make my own weathering powders from Rembrandt pastels, by the way...I find "burnt sienna" and "prussian blue" together with "burnt umber" and "paynes grey" to be ideal...I file them on a strip of medium sandpaper. They are kept in an old margarine box with the sandpaper, the residue which collects in the bottom is an ideal all-round weathering colour!

The ex-foundry benches
I'll finish with a shot of the workbenches for the foundry, which has all been altered now to take into account a lot of constructive criticism from my mate Dave Linton, industrial archaeologist de luxe,  and the excellent Paul B of blogging and lathe maestro fame. Well, the benches have come away altogether and will be featured in the general workshop alongside lathes and other arcane machinery, where I will be seeking a lot of advice from Paul, no doubt! I've reworked the scene and added more home-made junk and the wires that seem to breed in this kind of environment.

I've also got the (lovely) boards in the workshop from Elite baseboards for John's Hemyock project, and will feature the feed mill and structures from Whitehall (a stop on the Hemyock branch) next.

For interest, the original 4mm scale Weyland's Forge is here

The Atlas Foundry

I'm nearly there with the 1/22nd scale foundry model. I've learnt a lot. That in this scale, detail...every detail... has to be thought about and an attempt made to replicate it.  You really have to understand what you are modelling. And yet, space has to be left for the imagination, too. So it's about providing just enough convincing detail everywhere, without going over the top. Texture  has to be restrained and yet telling. Not easy, but very, very rewarding. Needless to say, I have been studying people like Marcel Ackle, Emmanuel Nouaillier, Chuck Doan and Jose Manuel Gomez Garcia. For a quick look at these guys' work, check out my Pinterest inspiration board and be blown away.

Construction began with the walls, of course, made from a sandwich of two sheets of 4mm Foamex. The wall was scribed on to the outside, but then I didn't really like that effect, it looked a little flat, so I went back and modelled the entire frontage from Milliput, which gave much more relief- at the expense of about twice the chargeable hours...but hey, we're looking for realism here. At this size, things start to look suspiciously like Doll's houses unless you build in some character and prototype observation.  As described in a previous post, the windows were made individually from strips of Evergreen styrene and are not difficult to make. I generally draw a template on a sheet of foamex and then tack the strips with Evo-Stick "Serious Glue" ... it just holds enough to stop the workpiece from moving, but releases the job cleanly and easily.

One of my very rough working sketches. As you can see, the finished job is completely different!

This will be the centre structure of a set of three...on the left there will be a boiler house and stationary steam engine, while on the right will be a blacksmith's shop with a sawtooth roof. Spanning the Smithy and part of the foundry will be a mezzanine floor where several lathes and machine tools will be placed, taking their power from overhead line shafting from the engine house. I have a lovely set of castings for the lathes and the stationary engine made by "Wild West Models"  which are a delight, although I was rather tempted to model a DeWinton engine as at Glynllyfon.

The walls on the interior were scribed from the foamboard, then augmented with Polyfilla, textured and sanded. Bits were chipped off and I scribed stonework or brick peeping out from under the plaster. Paul was kind enough to comment about my walls but suspected that they wouldn't be quite as bad as this...I think he is correct, but I was on a roll and was doing it because I could. :-) The walls at Gilfach Ddu, particularly in the machine shop and the forge, are pretty rough and hacked about, but not quite as badly as mine-  I admit, my model is something of a burlesque! I have gone back and worn away the doorsteps as Paul suggested- thanks for that.

I paid quite a few visits to Gilfach Ddu to get the details right and took over 300 photos. Petra and I both love the place. However, I couldn't get information about how the furnace is actually charged with raw materials, so I asked a worker/interpreter there. The guy looked at me like I was daft and didn't seem to understand my question, pointing to the doors at the back of the foundry. Duh. Luckily, after a long trawl on the internet, I managed to track down some information. I also purchased Peredur Hughes' book on Foundries of North Wales, which is superb. I know Pred works at Gilfach Ddu, but I wasn't able to track him down on the days I was there, a pity as he would, I  am sure, have been very helpful.

I found the image above from the excellent "Doric Columns" web site, which is an eye-opener. Seems stuff was just chucked down a chute- very hi-tech!

The furnace itself was made from a length of  plastic pipe, purchased from Jewsons. The guy tried to sell me fittings for it, and was incredulous when I said I didn't need any. I could only buy the pipe in a 2 metre length, so I asked him to cut it for me so I could get it into our truck. He then asked me what I was using the pipe for, clearly thinking me insane when I said it was for a model chimney in a foundry. Great fun! By some considerable good fortune, the plastic of the pipe is compatible with styrene solvent and I had no trouble putting strapping and rivets on, as well as constructing the lower section.

The Foundry at Gilfach Ddu

I built a crane, as per Gilfach Ddu, which is correct...but it didn't fit or turn properly when installed in the small space of the casting floor. So out came the books again and I copied an overhead crane that was in the forge at Crewe works, it would be hand operated  by chains and is quite compact. The various columns and supports are from balsa, while the wheels etc are from the scrapbox. It's not finished yet and I must remember to put a sign on it saying "22 cwt only".

Casting boxes are made from styrene (I need a lot more) and the sand lying about is from textured milliput. I built the ladle from measurements and photographs of a real one at Wrexham, where the fire iron rack was also to be found.

Opposite the furnace is a little bay which houses the benches of the pattern makers. This is a work in progress (you wouldn't believe how long it all takes in this scale) and of course, I need to add more woodworking tools and details. The benches were made from basswood supplied in the Wild West kits and the tools and bits are from various manufacturers such as "Rusty Stumps", or scratch built. Amazingly, there's not a lot available in this scale unless you want to go looking at doll's house accessories, which are curiously coarse and unrealistic.

The sign on the outer wall of the foundry is made from several layers of thick paper glued together after having been cut by the cameo cutter. The typeface is an Egyptian slab serif, which is almost identical to the font used on the nameplates of Great Western locomotives, so is in keeping with the period.  No "Comic Sans" allowed here!! It was weathered by sponging with dilute acrylic paints. I am enjoying every moment of this build, even though the concentration and time taken is immense. I am mindful of Chuck Doan's comment that some of his models go into a cupboard for a year until he has the chutzpah to continue...I fully understand that, but I guess I have the boundless enthusiasm and delight of my customers to keep me at the bench, plus I am getting paid for it- and it's a whole lot better than driving a truck up the same stretch of road every day, or thinking up some mindless advertising campaign for a bunch of fools who think their product is "mission critical"!

I already have the frontage walls for the smithy and the engine house cut out, so I will have to install the mezzanine next and build the lathes, which will be interesting. Hopefully the next installment won't be long in coming...

Hemyock- a work in progress

It's been quite a year so far. What with the usual slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, a great deal of work on the order books and being first on-call for a couple of ex-hell-raisers in their high old eighties, life has been interesting. Petra also completely rebuilt and remodelled my workshop in January, which now looks like some sort of ultra-modern facility for building high-end computers. The intention was to buy a load of wood and build new benches which would run round three sides of the room. However Petra found that by surfing Ikea, for less money we could get three tables, six shelves, a bookcase and two very fine sets of drawers, all very sturdy and much better than if I'd made 'em. Not that I could, I'm only the labourer.  It would have been herself that would have actually used woodworking skills...She put the whole lot up in a day and a half while I made cups of tea and passed the power driver/hammer etc. The biggest job was moving my vast book collection out and then putting it back again!

Anyway, one of the projects that I have got under way in the posh workshop this year is Hemyock, a 4mm scale iteration of the well-known and loved light branch line from Tiverton Junction. The first thing I did was to buy all the books I could on the branch. I already had Paul Karau's seminal "Great Western Branch Line Termini" (combined volume) but I also purchased Colin Magg's epic tome,  "The Culm Valley Railway" published by Oakwood Press, which has proved very useful indeed.  For the sake of completeness, I also got my hands on Michael Messenger's book on the Hemyock branch, although I found myself referring more to Colin Maggs as research enfolded.

The baseboards for the project are being built by those wonderful folk at Elite in the Forest of Dean and will be delivered up to sunny Blaenau later this month. I will make some notes about the plan and the trackwork once I have the boards to show you. In the meantime, I have been making a start on some of the structures and amassing raw materials. The first structure to come under my beady eye was, of course, the station building.

The period is to be in the early twenties, with a healthy supply of traffic from the creamery and  a ramshackle set of old coaches for the passengers. This means that the original loco shed and carriage sheds will feature, along with Great Western Stone colour,  no's 1 and 3...After studying hundreds of prototype photos I felt ready to start and scanned in a couple of photos that seemed fairly straight-on to the camera, so that I could find a known dimension and scale everything accordingly.

I was also keeping more than a wary eye on MRJ 230, very kindly supplied by my good friend Geoff Forster. Chris Lamacraft's model, featured in that issue of MRJ, is really the benchmark, with exquisite modelling and a great deal of proper research. Another model of the station came to light courtesy of  February 2016 "Model Rail" magazine, a 7mm version this time, by Eric Hines and Iain Haynes...very nice indeed- and extremely helpful with certain angles on the building. But of course, you shouldn't model from a model, no matter how good, so I concentrated on making a scale drawing of the structure from the prototype shots in Karau and Maggs.
Walls, Mk 1. The bricks are too did I not notice this?

Construction started in foamex, with the brick courses scribed on. Windows were an interesting exercise in styrene, reverting to a time-honoured method as I couldn't trust the Cameo to cut them fine enough. It wasn't long before I was dissatisfied with the way things were going on the walls and, despite having studied the photos for a long time, new understanding was dawning about several of the features of the elevations. This is the way it always goes... So after spending a couple of days on the original walls, those headed with some velocity for the bin.

Version 2 was started in .040" styrene, coated with proprietary embossed bricks. The extension at the end was built in foamex and scribed for blocks that are a feature of the prototype. I felt a lot happier with this and construction proceeded until all was almost complete. I have an odd technique for putting the mortar courses into the bricks, found by accident a while ago. I smear the bricks, once they have been painted with a dark version of their final colour, with Polyfilla fine surface filler. It is spread over the wall almost as if you are removing it, leaving only a residue in the courses. When dry, a couple of hours later, a wash with cream watercolour usually does the trick and tones everything down. I have an old credit card for smoothing off the unwanted Polyfilla, but fingers are just as good.

The prototype brickwork shows the evidence of much alteration and infilling over the years...this was truly an ad-hoc building, yet that, surely must be it's appeal for so many folk  I painted in several lines of mortar in darker colours to emphasise where windows or doors had been filled in.

I hadn't noticed until now that there needs to be a lintel above the waiting room door...
 The roof line, angle and covering were all a bit tricky. It doesn't really matter unless you are making a museum model, but I wanted to get the pantiles on the roof looking right. The ones in the Model Railways magazine were obviously wrong if I was to be pettifogging ( although I feel that is how the real thing should have been covered!) and Chris's look great, but I wondered if they were a bit large- they show their origins very clearly as from Wills...nothing wrong there, excellent tiles, but perhaps a little on the heavy side? I found some sheets of pantiles from Auhagen, supplied by my local shop, Porthmadog Models. These are possibly a little small, being HO,  but they have more of an accurate feel to them somehow. They were applied to the roof after spending a couple of hours trimming, filing and fettling the eaves sections. In the end it's all in the eye of the beholder, I'm certainly not criticising Chris's model or the excellent one by Eric Hines. Things were finished off with a splatter from the airbrush of various shades of algae and moss over the warm brown of the tiles.

The model is not yet finished, as it has to be fixed onto the platform and then super-detailed. I will get round to painting the haunching on the chimney! One area, however, that is open to much discussion, is the gent's. I can't find any information or clues in the photos as to how this is aranged, so I have made a stab at a best-guess layout, which nevertheless, I suspect, is wrong. The photos of Chris's model are very coy- after all, who wants to see a model "gents"...bring on the steam locos!  I wish I had seen it first hand at a show. No doubt someone hopefully will tell me and I will rebuild it- in the meantime, there it is! Stay tuned for updates, the boards are arriving soon.

In the meantime, here is a quick peek at another project on the board, the 1/22 foundry and works buildings. A full blog post about these will follow very soon!

Happy New Year!

I hope everyone had a grand Christmas with plenty of railway-related gifts and not too many socks, ties or chocolates.  As it happens, I have been quite busy over the festive period. After Christmas Day was decently dispensed with, I disappeared back to my workshop, too excited by the projects on hand to stay away. Petra resumed work, too, but her reason was a worrying publisher's deadline-  at least it meant that I wasn't being anti-social.

I don't want to give too much away at this point, but I've been working in two wildly contrasting scales. After buying every book published on the Hemyock branch, I have made a cautious start to the station buildings in 4mm/ft, although it's early days yet. It is going to be very satisfying, that's for sure. This will hopefully be to the highest standard I can muster, and might take a while, although I will have to get my skates on, as the baseboards are arriving from Elite Baseboards in late February.

The opening lights in the windows haven't been fitted yet. I will also go over the windows with Brasso to give a clear effect in the middle of the apertures.
At the other end of the spectrum, I have been building a Foundry in 1/22nd scale. That's quite large! I have been working at the stone finish, this time using Milliput,  embossed while in a plastic state, then sanded and engraved when set off, usually about a day later.  I paint it grey (Humbrol 27) and then apply a grout of Das slurry into the mortar courses. Petra managed to mix a good batch of this but I can't vouch for the food mixer any more...thank goodness it was her idea! When dry, I go over the whole thing with varying shades of emulsion paint, dabbing with a sponge. The quoins are from 3mm  foamex, scribed as usual and fixed to the sides of the walls and windows before the Milliput is applied.

The windows are from Evergreen strip and section. The doors are from .040" styrene scribed with a file to impart a wood grain then painted with a mix of colours and techniques including washes and drybrushing. It's amazing how much longer things take at this scale, but then again, how much easier everything is. But you do have to have photos of the real thing to go from in order to get things right. If you are going to spend days scribing a wall, it had better look like the real thing!

So that's where I am just now, I will probably give an update on Hemyock soon, when there's something to report. In the meantime, a very fine New Year to all the readers of this blog, may it be a peaceful, happy and healthy one for you all.

Season's Greetings!

It's been a very busy, but very enjoyable year, building models for folk. The last model to be finished completely for the year is this rugged Cornish goods shed. My customer wanted a copy of the excellent "Treneglos" goods shed, (post number 483)  but after some discussion between us, we decided to make it more in keeping with the style of Gara bridge halt, as it will sit near that structure in it's final place on the layout. As always, there were changes as we went along and some new ideas presented themselves; the loading bank was lengthened, roof lights blanked off and a few other alterations, but I hope the result is pleasing.

Construction was in Foamex, of course, but with quoins and added details put on with Milliput, which was then sanded down when set.  I am accustomed to filling scribing mistakes in the foamex with Milliput, but this was a new departure, born of my growing dissatisfaction with the even-ness of the resultant surface after scribing. I found that:

a/ the Milliput sticks very well to the foamex and
b/ it can be carved and modelled while still in a plastic state.

This latter is something that I had doubted my ability to do, but practice definitely makes perfect. (sort of.) It is pretty useless trying to scribe the Milliput after it has set, although  obviously it will sand beautifully. I did actually manage to re-scribe some texture back on to stones that I had sanded down too much-but the scribing in this case was done with the Dremel.

I put in a little office with full interior detail, really for my own benefit as nobody is going to see it- but hey, I work for myself and why not. I illuminated the insides with a 6V LED.  I also added some tea chests, made up first in Photoshop and then printed out on an A4 sheet. The paper was glued onto a square of foamex pieces, about four of them, which stopped the crates from getting warped. If anyone wants a copy of the Photoshop document as a JPEG, just ask. The raw folded edges were painted to conceal white card and that was it. Of course, Mikkel was the inspiration as usual.

The wire coming down the wall is the - terminal for the LED, disguised as a phone line, or some non-specific pipe!
The New Year promises to be very exciting- I am lucky enough to have a full order book and, subject to time and permissions I will, of course, feature my builds on here. I've a big 1/22nd scale project and a model of Hemyock to do, plus a few other tasty things. I promise I won't let it be so long before the next post!

Last but not least, a very happy Christmas to all my readers, fellow bloggers and of course, my very patient and understanding customers. I hope Santa brings you all what you wanted. Here's to a fabulous 2016, in the model world at least!

A Trip to Futers Country

A 4mm/ft ex-NB signal box.
A model of the elusive signal box at ScotsGap, a Northumbrian backwater which nevertheless makes a fascinating scheme for a station. My customer wanted the 'box modelled in early corporate BR times, so there are some modern touches here and there. My information all came from the excellent article by Ian Futers, well-known exponent of the Borders branchline, in the May 2013 Railway Modeller.
First thing was to take a good look at the photo and plans in the article and try to estimate sizes from that. I produced a scale drawing for myself which after a little tweaking, looked right. Given that there is only one decent photo, most of the box is "informed" imagination.

Cutting Foamex
I cut the walls and scribed them from 3mm Foamex as per my usual methods. The rear wall was left off so that it would be easier to detail later, but all corners were mitred and the courses run up so that they would match. The whole was painted with ...well, it was painted grey. Because as soon as I had shown this to my customer, Steve, he told me very gently that the prototype was in red sandstone! I felt a bit of a fool, but nothing daunted, set out to match a photo of local stonework that Steve gave me to use as a guide.

I gave the walls a wash of  Humbrol Acrylic RC 402, mixed with 186. This was to provide a base coat to work on. Once this was dry, I washed over the walls with Crafter's "Antique White" and wiped it off again, as per. Individual stones could then be picked out in stronger mixes of colour ...I also went over the walls with a Rembrandt pastel, "Burnt Sienna" to add a little homogeneity. I was pleased with this, so all was well again. Phew.

Windows were run off from my drawings on the trusty Cameo, double laminated and sealed with Resin W. I fixed them and then attached an interior wall from card to represent the panelling that I felt sure had graced the walls.

The interior
I tackled this now, because it would be difficult later on- even though I was going to make the roof removable. The levers and instruments are from the new ratio signal box interior set, which frankly knocks the socks off all the others. The levers are easy to install and everything goes together well, although I felt the seat and the stove were a little anaemic. So I made a sofa from Milliput and the fireplace was fixed as part of the structure. A cat, of course, is sitting on the sofa! Steve wanted me to add some offcuts of "carpet" over the slots for the signals that weren't working and a "Genesis" poster to show the period. I had a little trouble with this as although it might seem a simple thing, English Genesis posters were hard to find on the 'net. I also installed a sink and water heater, and some tomato plants. I really liked the anglepoise lamp in the kit, top marks for that, but surprisingly there was no phone included, so I carved one from Foamex. Finally, a fire extinguisher was made from styrene rod and paper.

The Walls
With the interior done and dusted, I fixed the walls together. The front had gone together perfectly but I realised that I had made some kind of a mistake, as the back wall just didn't match up! It was now also a little large by about a millimetre, so I cut that, remitred and then pondered what to do with the stonework over a peanut butter sandwich.

I decided to run a coating of Milliput  over the offending scribing.  This actually worked well, and I was able to impress the new courses into the milliput about an hour later.

The Steps
I had to do these twice. The first lot looked absolutely fine, quite the thing... until I photographed them, whereupon they looked so clumsy and over scale that I wish I hadn't shown them to Steve. I quickly assured him that I would be making another set, although he hadn't actually said anything at that point. I think he was just hoping I would do the decent thing, which of course, I did.

I fashioned the new set from Evergreen styrene, with card treads, set by eye. I do have a couple of York modelmaking kits for steps, but I can't get on with them, in the past I have ended up in a mess with steps and rails stuck to my fingers.

The little lean-to was made from Evergreen siding, just the job for representing the kind of vertical weatherboarding that flourishes in Northumberland.

The Roof.
I have to confess that normally when I make a hipped roof, I end up with dozens of "failures". I shouldn't do, because I have known for years how to do it properly, witness my article on roofs, donkeys years ago in the Railway Modeller. I think I am just lazy. So, for anyone else who wonders how to do it without a pile of wasted card or styrene, here goes.

I am greatly indebted to that most excellent fellow, Doug, or "chubber" from RMWeb for the instructions and the diagram here.

"You will need a scale drawing of the side and end elevations of the roof. With those two drawings, and a pair of compasses you will be able to measure the length of the ridge, [D-A], the length of the lower sides and ends, [E-C, C-B] and the distance down the slope of the roof to the lower edge, [A-B]. Notice that the distance G-F, the height of the roof is much less than the length of the slope, A-C.

Start by drawing three parallel lines, slightly longer than E-C and the distance A-C apart. In the middle of the middle line mark the length of the ridge D-A and divide it by two, marking the point G.

Using a set square [or by construction] draw a line at right angles from point G such that it cuts the two outer lines.

From the point where this line cuts the upper and lower line mark out half the distance E-C on either side to give points V,W,Y and Z and join them as shown, D-V,D-W,A-Y and A-Z.

From A scribe an arc of length A-Y and from Z an arc of length B-C.

Where they cross is point X. Join points A-X.

Repeat this exercise at the other end and you will have a pattern, which when folded up will look exactly like the side and end elevations of your building."

So there you are - thank you, Doug. This actually works and is well worth following!

The roof was slated with my favourite York Modelmaking slate strips and ridge tiles put on with Daler "Murano" coloured paper. Here I made another error, a lapse in concentration, so I had to re-do the ridges as they were too wide; I find the best width is just a shade over 3mm either side of the ridge. Caps were added from strips of the same card, fixed with Resin W.  The chimney was three strips of 3mm foamex stuck together and scribed when dry.

Originally, I made the main roof separate from the roof over the little porch extension. This was a mistake and the roof join didn't look good, so reluctantly, I had to start all over again with the roof on that side of the building. At this point I also realised that the roof sat a little low compared to the photographs, so there was an evening of wailing and tooth gnashing until I got this right, using shims of card on the walls. Now the roof on the lean-to is a little high, and I have had to build it up by about 1.5mm, which you wouldn't notice unless you knew...but now you do... Little errors, like rats, multiply fiendishly...

I had tried to order some NB pattern finials from a supplier on the web, but having negotiated the Kafka-esque twists and turns of his web site, I couldn't ascertain whether the connection he had was secure or not so that I could buy the pesky things. It didn't help that yet another crazily speeding car had knocked down our telegraph pole and we had no internet, so I was trying to browse using Petra's iPad in Costa's. Tough work, I know.  In the end, I realised that I could turn my own from cocktail sticks...why didn't I think of that in the first place? I drilled little holes in the roof and fixed them with a dab of epoxy and they really set the model off.
The coal bunker, made from offcuts of Foamex, scribed to represent wood. Shovel by Scale Link.
 Finishing Touches
The nameboards were made to look like the early corporate ones from British Rail, which were Univers medium as per the corporate manual. Luckily I had the font, thanks to  one of Petra's web customers, and they do look like innapropriate concretions on the model rather than the lovely NB ones which can be seen in the original photo. That's the fell hand of the marketing folk for you, I guess.

The downpipes are a mystery on this job, I can't see them anywhere, so I just fixed them where I thought they might be found. I tried a new wheeze (for me) in that the joins in the pipes are made from masking tape, wound around the Evergreen Rod that I use these days. A lot easier than cutting paper strips and trying to stick them on cleanly. That tip came from one of Geoff Taylor's excellent books, which I often refer to for inspiration. I installed lighting- a diode fixed to two wires that come up in the elbow of the wall. I also had to install a light trap on the inside wall.

Finally, the box isn't really surrounded by bosky greenery, I set it up as a background for the photos, so that my efforts wouldn't look too stark. Perhaps I could persuade Steve to send a photo of the box in situ, once that part of the layout is finished. In conclusion, a fairly small but time consuming job, made more difficult by a few silly mistakes, but hopefully they will be lessons learned, even after all this time! Thanks to Ian Futers for the article, to Doug for his super diagram...and to the amazingly patient Steve for commissioning me to build the box.

Scots Gap on Disused Stations org
Doug's original post on RMWeb