Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Sandy Shores - Lighthouse - Part 6

Scribing & painting the lighthouse tower

Well, that month flew past! I'd love to say that I've finally completed the lighthouse, but work is still very much ongoing. That said, its appearance has altered fairly drastically as you'll see.

So, the first step was to give the tower a rough sanding to smooth out the more major imperfections in my application of the clay. That said, I was not after a completely smooth surface as I was very keen to keep it looking as a naturally uneven and weather-beaten stone tower.

Then it was time to start scribing the horizontal lines. If you look closely in the photo below, you should just be able to see some faint markings going up the entire tower to help keep everything level. I worked my way around the tower doing small sections at a time; using a short piece of card to help guide the craft knife. As the tower is tapered, any attempt to do larger lengths would result in a curved line; as it was there are a few wobbly lines, but nothing that looks out of place.


The next challenge was to work out how to scribe the vertical mortar courses. Again, the tapering tower makes this more difficult than simply marking out every 10mm or so. but I was keen for something to be relatively straightforward; so a simple solution was needed. Fortunately, I came up with an idea (although in my haste, I forgot to take a photo!). On the top and bottom of the tower, a mark was made every 15 degrees (as it's a factor of 360 degrees, so there wouldn't be any odd sized gaps), these were then lightly joined with a mechanical pencil to give vertical divisions that I could base the stone lengths around. This results in slightly trapezoid shaped stones to account for the taper, and it was easy to offset alternating layers. The end result are perfectly matching stone courses all around the tower; I was pretty surprised myself to be honest!


Now that every single line was scribed (I think there were over 700 vertically, but who's counting?!), I went back and gave a bit of a rougher and more prominent texture by doing further scribing with a wider implement; taking off some chunks here and there to suggest wear.

With the stone courses scribed (including the top of the tower, not shown), I turned my attention to fitting the stone window and door surrounds. Originally I planned to simply glue these in place on top of the stone work, but knowing how hard it would be to achieve a perfect finish, I opted for the trickier option (as always!). The frames were marked onto the tower, and careful use of the craft knife meant I could mark out the edges then slowly chip away at the clay:


With the door and 5 windows all cut out, the surrounds could be glued in place ready for the paint stage. In order to get them all to lay flat whilst the PVA dried, I used rubber bands to hold them all in place:


So, the painting. This turned out to be an incredibly long process (as with everything on this lighthouse!), but given my limited know-how, I think the end result is actually relatively decent. I'm afraid I won't be giving a blow-by-blow account of it; mainly because I have absolutely no idea what I was doing at the time. Painting isn't something I really know how to do, and matching colours to photos was incredibly difficult.

However, looking at the photo montage below; the first photo (left) shows a general undercoat of a mix of two Dulux tester pots - Perfectly Taupe, and Lemon Pie. These created a concrete-ish colour which I could use as a good starting point. 
The middle photo shows the result of many many hours of painting variations of the same colour (mixed with a range of browns, whites, greys, and sand colours from Model Color). This is where the most experimentation took place, and where I found the greatest challenge in getting colours that were not so vastly different as to be out of place, but different enough to give some variation. In the end, some of the browns look a bit pink, and the dark greys look a bit blue (a common problem on this layout it seems!).
Finally, the last photo shows one of the various washes of colour I used afterwards to try and blend the colours together a bit better, and give some highlights and variation. The white here is the last one to go on (after a yellowish one, and has just been brushed on in the photo, awaiting immediate rubbing off with a kitchen roll to remove the worst of it. Judging by the prototype at Spurn, the close proximity to the sea creates a lot of salt deposits or something on the seaward side; hence this white streak.


With the main section of the tower done, I then applied a few washes of green to represent the abundance of seaweed found on base of the prototype. Given that the base is covered by water at high tide; this should come as no surprise. And so after many days of work, I've decided this is about as good as my limited skills will get it:


This lighthouse really is a labour of love, but I think it has been worth it; even if there is still a fair amount to do on it!

As a side note, I'm pleased to announce that Sandy Shores will be making it's 2nd ever outing. It is however a members-only event from the good people over on RMweb; but as I know a few of you here are also on RMweb then it's worth mentioning. The SWAG event will be held on April 28th at Staplegrove Village Hall, Taunton. Again, RMweb members only. With a to-do list for the layout as long as my arm, it's about time I made some serious progress...!

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Sandy Shores - Lighthouse - Part 5


Just a little update for tonight as work continues on turning the lighthouse from a solid white monolith into... well, a lighthouse! You may remember from my last post that I was working on the lower panels for the lantern room. I mentioned that it was hard trying to align the hole punch in the right position, but then the solution became obvious; taking off the base of the hole punch:


Now I could easily align the panels to the hole, it was quick work to make a hole in 7 of the 8 panels:


The 8th panel would not have a hole cut out as it would be the access hatch onto the balcony, that encompasses the outside of the lantern room. Eventually, the smaller ventilation holes will be drilled through the whole assembly, but for now I'm stuck as the only chuck suitable for the tiny drill bit is too big for the Dremel.

The panel that forms the hatch is made up of numerous parts; a U shaped frame with a door rain deflector, and the hatch itself which is formed of the panel and 4 tiny edge strips. As the interior will be visible, a similar hatch will need to be made for the inside, perhaps with diagonal bracing to make it stand out a bit more.


With work halted on the lantern room for the time being, I turned my attention to the lighthouse tower itself. This has been somewhat neglected ever since I finished the stepped lower section. Whilst I didn't get too far, I did manage to make all the stone frames around the 5 windows and the door.


Made of the same thin plasticard (20 thou) as the panel overlays (the ones with the circular holes), the design of the stone door surrounds were copied from photos of the type found on the prototype lighthouse at Spurn Head.


Before any of these can be attached, I have decided that the tower will need to be given a light sanding to smooth the surface somewhat, as it is a bit patchy and uneven. If I was to make my life easier, I would just paint the whole tower white and be done with it, but I quite like the natural stone finish of the prototype. This means that every single brick will need to be scribed; not a process I'm looking forward to given the shape of the lighthouse. As neither base nor top are flat, it's not a simple case of spinning and scribing mortar lines!

Anyway, I'll cross that bridge when I get to it!

Sunday, 17 February 2019

Sandy Shores - Lighthouse - Part 4

The Lighthouse Lantern Room

Progress has been very slow this week, but I have managed to make a start on a replacement lantern room for the lighthouse. You may just remember that the original was a rush job to get the layout in a presentable state for our exhibition last May. Looking at it again more recently, I realised first and foremost that the metal uprights were far too thick compared to the real things, but also that the octagonal shape was... well, not exactly octagonal.

So, work began by drawing intersecting lines at a 45 degree angle, to form an actual octagon. 20 thou (I think) plasticard was then cut into 3mm wide strips, and mitred to form an octagonal ring:


The upright panels were also cut out, as well as a 2mm octagonal ring. The following photos show the two ring components stack on top of each other. The original thought was that these would form the ring that the windows would sit on top of. You'll see what I actually did later.


Quickly drawing a paper mock up, it became clear that something looked wrong. After a second opinion, it was brought to my attention that the prototype (at Spurn Head) was actually tapered (at least it certainly looks like it from the only photo of it I could find). The photo below shows the straight version on the left, and tapered on the right; suddenly it "feels" much better:


With that settled, I turned my attention back to plasticard. As you can see, in the end I decided the original octagonal rings would now be used as the bottom set. Given that all this will be visible, it makes sense to make the inside look detailed; and the stepped base is a nice example of that:


As you'll have worked out, each upright panel would also now need to be tapered; that was easily done with my chopper tool.It then came to mitring the joins, but with plastic this small, I was running out of patience. Whilst a jig would've made this neater, I just stuck the panel in a mini-vice and sanded the 22.5 degree mitre in a very approximate manner!


Happily, whilst not going to win any form of award for precision, it works as intended:


As you'll see, a bunch more tiny strips of plasticard were cut out with the chopper tool, and these were to become the window frames. In order to make the frames look even thinner, the uprights had about 1mm taken out of the back. Actually, this ended up looking pretty similar to the frames from Plymouth's Smeaton Tower (albeit without the ornate wood carvings!).


And here are the windows being made (with some trusty transparent plastic packaging from Wills sheets); you can also see the marks to show the window frame locations:



Realising I would need incredibly thin plasticard to make window bars that would look anywhere near the right size, I realised I would need to find an alternate method. Searching around on forums, I realised that simply scoring the plastic windows can sometimes be enough to represent those really thin frames. I did do a little experiment with a bit of white paint, but couldn't get it uniform or straight enough for it to look convincing.


The result of the scoring, especially in the right light, is a fairly good representation of old windows:


And I'm afraid this is where progress stalled. I wanted to make a thin overlay for the upright panels underneath the windows to give them more depth. I have gone through a number of options, but trying to cut them out neat enough proved more difficult than I expected, even though the plasticard is incredibly thin.

I'm currently leaning towards using a hole punch to form a large-ish circle, and then drilling a smaller hole through the thicker upright panels to form an air vent. I could then cover the hole with a piece of semi-circular plasticard to form a vent cover. Sounds good in principal, but aligning this tiny piece of plastic into a hole punch is much harder than you'd imagine. I think I'll have to somehow make a jig for it before I go any further!


And so that sums up this weeks incredibly tedious progress. Still much left to do on the lighthouse (including 5 more damn windows!)

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Sandy Shores - Grounded Carriage - Part 3

Grounded Carriage - Roof & Window Fitting

After some useful comments over on NGRM-online, rather than use overscale sandpaper, it was suggested that I instead turn to tissue paper to replicate roofing felt. Happily, I had recently acquired some from a parcel that was protected with it; so I got to work cutting it into strips 13mm wide:


In the shot above you can also see a window being test fitted in the rear extension. Anyway, in order to glue each piece of tissue paper, the relevant area (including the edges and underside edges) were given a light film of slightly watered down PVA. In reality the photo below shows that too much has been applied, but you get the idea.


I started at the end of the carriage without an extension, and so carefully placed the first piece as follows; with both ends and the side overhanging:


It was then a case of cutting small slits (due to the curve) with a small pair of scissors and folding it all underneath. As you can see, the first piece had a few bubbles; and it's worth noting that whilst you have to keep the tissue paper taught, it is all too easy to accidentally tear it apart. Equally, you have to be incredibly careful when smoothing it, even with your finger.



Next two photos: As you can see, the curved roof section was done first.  As I obviously couldn't glue the two roof sections in place yet, and I also couldn't glue the two roof sections together either. I eventually decided to use some tape to join the two roof sections so that it would be strong enough without relying purely on the fragile tissue paper to hold it all together.



Below: And here we see the process completed! A very pleasing effect indeed; as the subtle textures of the tissue paper just about show through, as do the joins.


It was then time to very carefully insert all the windows. After half an hour of nerve-racking fine cuts with a sharp craft knife, eventually all the windows were fitted. There are a few gaps around the frames, and it doesn't stand up to close scrutiny, but I'm hoping with a little filler here and there it will be good enough for me.


Despite it being rather white, the tissue paper is thin enough that a lot of the grey paint underneath shows through, and actually the effect is rather pleasing. Whilst I will have to paint it to get it a slightly greyer colour, the paint will have to be thinly applied so that the detail still shows through. Perhaps a bit of drybrushing with white or light grey will be needed here and there. I also plan to dry brush a little yellow; particularly on the edges to replicate the growth of lichen!


Still, the windows and roof have made a huge difference; and despite there still being a lot more to add and gaps to fill, it's looking much better already.

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Sandy Shores - Grounded Carriage - Part 2


This grounded carriage is one of those projects where you know it's going to be a long slog, but still you can't ever anticipate to what degree; and it's certainly been a labour of love.

Allow me, if you will, to go back to my inner thoughts a day or two ago: "make a plasticard curved roof - it can't be difficult, just pre-bend the material and glue it to some formers to help it retain its shape" - HA! As if!

What actually happened was I spent hours in vain pre-bending and gluing it, trying as many different methods as I could think of to get it to stay in the right shape. I wrapped it in rubber bands, nope; I weighed it down with weights, nope; I tied it tightly with masking tape, nope! Anyway, you get the idea; despite the pre-bending, it was determined to stay as flat as possible. Disgruntled, I left it well alone and went to bed. (And yes, I did consider cutting slits in the back to help it bend, but the plasticard seemed very brittle; plus I wanted it to curve smoothly).

So, determined not be beaten, I took a new approach; over-the-top pre-bending by hand was followed by carefully squeezing the whole assembly (roof & the three formers) into a vice, adding copious amounts of plastic cement, and leaving it to go off for 6 hours. I'm pleased to say that upon winding the vice open, the shape finally held!


Now it was time to tackle something I have been putting off for months; the windows. Ordinarily I would take a lazy approach and cover a piece of clear plastic window (packaging from "Wills" sheets) with adhesive label (to form glazing bars), and stick it behind the opening. With the carriage, the balsa wood shell was too thick to get this looking correct, so I somehow had to make some flush(ish) glazing. Bearing in mind the openings for most of the windows were only 10mm x 5mm, there was going to be no easy way about it!


Whilst initially planning to carefully cut a piece of clear plastic to shape and jam it in, I realised that the edges of the windows were not very square. In order to smarten it up, I therefore decided to form a frame out of some very thin plasticard (sorry, I don't have details on the thickness). Thin strips of this were cut off with a craft knife, and using the chopper tool (that I usually use for cutting up lollipop sticks), they were quickly cut to length.

With steady hands, a metal ruler, and thin-nosed pliers, I was eventually able to persuade the glue not to stick everything to my fingers!


Thankfully I had the foresight not to cut out every single window of the carriage; so there were only 5 small windows, 2 slightly bigger ones, and a final large window to build. Despite the fiddly (to put it mildly!) nature of the work, I only messed up one of them (which was soon rebuilt).


It's fair to say that the results aren't going to stand up to close scrutiny, but it looks a damn sight better than my usual adhesive label method.


Above: The finished windows all packed onto a flat wagon (I've no idea why, I can't think of a worse way of transporting glass than on an unsprung 4 wheeled wagon!)


And finally, the two sections of roof were hastily covered in a grey paint. Don't worry, this is only a base coat; the strips of sandpaper in the background will be laid over the top of it and overlapped to suggest roofing felt. It can then be painted a more suitable grey colour, and roof details such as a stovepipe and guttering added.

Also of note in the shot above are the recently painted fence posts that are ready for installation around the carriage. Tacking the beading wire onto the posts may prove tricky, but that's for another day! As always, these posts are simply thinly cut-up lollipop sticks.

So, still lots of work to do on the carriage; but it's getting there!

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Sandy Shores returns!

9 months on

Yes it really has been that long... I've always said that railway modelling is very much a seasonal affair for me, but quite where the last 9 months have gone, I've no idea! I do know that 6 months can be attributed to a complete creative block over all of my interests; music, photography and model-making. That was probably the worst 6 months I've experienced in my life thus far; not least because I lost both grandparents.

But, there is always a silver lining; and thankfully I can now move forward, and have also gotten past my creative block.

Anyway, small steps to ease me back in were the order of the day. First up was to set-up the layout in a more convenient place than it has been since May. Things didn't start off well when the plastic trunking (that holds the LED lighting) fell off and smashed the trestle handrail to pieces. To be honest, my nephew had already broken some of it last week, so I can't say I was too bothered. Anyway, I found (most of) the pieces and put it to one side whilst I set the layout up again.

From there, it was a case of working out what was left to do on Sandy Shores, and what I felt would be a comparatively small job that I could easily complete. In the end (after a bit of de-cobwebbing and dusting) I decided todays job should be forming the pathways that cross the sand dunes. During the exhibition, I had "planted" some Marram grass and I quickly realised that the informal paths could do with some texture to make them stand out better.

Having tidied all my model-making stuff, I knew I had an annoyingly small amount of powdered plaster left in a box. Finally; I can use it up! (As it turns out, there's still a tiny bit left, but shh...)

In a first for me, here's an animated GIF of me applying the plaster with a dentist's tool to the sand dunes. Pretty self-explanatory really:


Copying this technique across the layout, there are now a few such informal  pathways across the dunes. Of course, these will need to be painted when dry, but even in their raw white state, they've done a surprising amount to improve the look of this area.




Monday, 7 May 2018

Woodgreen Model Show 2018


Well as you all know, the reason for the recent sustained work on Sandy Shores was that it would be attending our exhibition - Woodgreen Model Show. This being our 10th year meant it was a pretty big milestone for us, and the weather certainly didn't disappoint!



History of the show:

For those who don't know, this is a brief backstory of the show; Originally, Woodgreen had a biennial model railway exhibition run by Reg & Mary Hunt. This ran for many years (I think 20; so 10 shows?). My dad often attended such exhibitions with his traction engine, and often he and his mates would get together at the event with their engines. Well, 10 years ago, we all decided that instead of having one biennial model railway exhibition, we should mix our interests and jointly host a show every year - this became Woodgreen Model Show, and no longer focused only on model railways. It's a pretty tiny show (the hall isn't exactly big), but it always seems to be much-loved and reasonably well attended. We've always held it as a charity event; every single penny of profit (i.e. with the cost of hiring the hall taken out), goes straight to charity.

This years show:

This year we raised money for 3 charities that are close to our hearts - CLAPA (Cleft Lip & Palate Association - they helped me and my family when I was young), Teenage Cancer Trust, and Help for Heroes.

I can be the first to happily confirm that we raised over £1300 over the two days! All of which will be split between the three charities. No doubt the weather helped the increased footfall over last year, but I hope this means that more people will now know about the event for future years.

This year, we were graciously allowed use of St Boniface's Church, next door, to hold a new portion of our show - local arts and crafts. This proved a hit, and many delightful homemade things were on sale; from jams to doorstops, to lavender products to art!


The Layouts

Binns Road to Basildon - OO - John & Sue Ablett



Buckleigh - OO - James & Chandler Thick & John Penny


Little Bridge - O Gauge - Sedgemoor O Gauge Group


Parracombe - 009 - Peter Hollins


Salisbury - OO Three Rail - Reg & Mary Hunt



Sandy Shores - 009 - Yours truly!


Tramway - Peter Murchison

A huge thanks to:




  • Those that offered the money they made from selling their products to the charities of our choice - that was a kind and a very unexpected surprise!
  • All the exhibitors that attended, and helped make such a great show happen.
  • The various helpers that kindly gave up their bank holiday; from working in the kitchen, to making cakes for us to sell, to manning the door and car park (and everything else in between!).
  • The visitors themselves for not only helping to raise money for charity, but also making sure the exhibition will continue on for another year.
  • The vicar and local church office for allowing use of St. Boniface church throughout the show.
  • And to anyone else I may have missed out!