Monday, 28 October 2019

ExpoNG 2019

Where on earth do I begin? A fantastic day was had by all who attended ExpoNG, and the hospitality and quality of layouts on show was second to none. In this blog post, I'll take you around a tour of all the layouts!

Friday, 25 October 2019

Sandy Shores - Preparing for ExpoNG - 2nd Part

Whew. A bumper two days of progress on the layout. The text is going to have to be relatively brief as I have to be up very early tomorrow to pack everything in the car and make the 2+ hour trip to Swanley.

So, first things first was to re-attach the crane on the harbour that I kept knocking off (and damaging its plinth). I decided the best way to go forward was to drill a hole in the base of the crane and in the plinth, and simply use a cocktail stick to make for a removable yet sturdy support.

I've always intended to add seaweed on the high tide mark. Having researched real-world examples around the coast near Calshot, I came up with what I hope is a fair representation of how it might form on walls, rocks, and the beach itself. The seaweed itself was simply green fine turf mixed with watered-down PVA and darkish green paint. I found the best way to attach it was to use additional neat PVA, and a dentists tool; using brushes inevitably resulted in the mixture firmly attaching itself to the brush and not the intended areas!

Next up, the area under the trestle needed some treatment to fill in the holes underneath. A plaster mix and a coating of paint and play sand soon sorted that out. I could then add the seaweed (being careful to follow photos found online; it seems most strandlines occur in arches across the beach), and then dry brush it several times in multiple yellows, blacks, and greys to tone it down and blend it all together.

The next area to receive attention was the quayside track. At some point over the last year, the clay around the roadway has lifted up and cracked. Rather than tear it all up and start again, I decided to sand it back and repaint it to represent a nasty tarmac "repair" job! Note how the edges have been painted with a thin line of darker grey, and the whole lot weathered to tone it all down a bit.

Today's job was mainly to sort out wagon loads; it's something (as you may have noticed from the magazine article) that was sorely needed. I actually spent about 5 hours today working on turning this:

Into a lengthy assortment of wagon loads:

It actually forms enough loads to fill all of my 13 flat wagons, although only 9 have both sets of couplings! Most of the wagon loads are removable, with the exception of the bench and the firefighting trailer.

I also took the time to finish painting various wagons, and I'm also in the middle of making some ballast loads for these 5 tippers from plaster. Note how I've lined the tippers with clingfilm so that I can make the loads removable.

Oh, and one final job was to "finish" off the lighthouse. The railing stanchions were re-spaced, and the handrails soldered in place. The whole lot could then be painted with 2 coats of off-white paint. As you can imagine, this was a bloody fiddle job; especially as the stanchions were wobbly plastic! OH, and I also finally got around to adding the windows that I had made ages ago. I've actually fully bedded them in with plaster so they all have proper frames and fit snugly.

So there we have it, whilst I didn't get around to adding any vegetation/trees to disguise the scenic exit, the overally appearance of the layout has been dramatically improved.

Those of you coming to ExpoNG tomorrow; I look forward to seeing you there. Please do introduce yourselves!

Saturday, 19 October 2019

Sandy Shores - Preparing for ExpoNG

What's this? A blog entry?! Yes, I know; surprising, but there is reason for my absence and my subsequent return...

Long story short, I've actually been rather busy with various things; two of them model-making related. Firstly, I was invited to write an article about Sandy Shores for the August 2019 edition of BRM. Needless to say this is a very proud achievement of mine! Secondly, I've actually been involved in a commission for the first time. You'll see the fruits of my labour in December...

Anyway, back to today, and the reason for the sudden blog entry is that ExpoNG is only a week away, and I need to fix a few things on Sandy Shores before I take it all the way to Kent! First things first, back at our little exhibition in Woodgreen, one of the point motors developed a fault that prevented it from throwing in one direction. Unfortunately, this is the most crucial point (and furthest from the control panel) so it was absolutely crucial that it was fixed before Swanley/ExpoNG.

As you'll also see in the photo below, the CDU had become somewhat detatched (it's actually dangling behind the panel here), pulling some of the wires out. The power socket also came out at Woodgreen, and some wires also a little bit too loose for my liking. The CDU has constantly fallen off, but rather than glue it, I just tried to hold it in place with sticky pads and the wires! Needless to say, it's about time that it was glued down for good...

Back to the point motor, and confirming that it was still only throwing in one direction, and that the wiring was not to blame, I took it off. I was about to throw it away and replace it with a new one when I realised that one half of one of the coils had actually broken free from the circuit board. Bingo! That explains why it would only throw in one direction.

After a quick soldering job, and half an hour of swearing trying to glue and screw the point motor into place, I'm pleased to say it is now working perfectly again. I suspect that the motor had moved due to the sticky foam pads that it was partially mounted on. Despite also being screwed down, it seems that it had perhaps moved enough that it broke the copper contact. Perhaps after ExpoNG I'll make some new wooden mounting plates so that I can be sure there is a reduced chance of movement.

During the week, I expect to make a few additions to the layout; nothing crazy; perhaps just a bit more vegetation to hide the scenic exit, and maybe some more detailing and wagon loads.

So, those of you near Swanley next weekend, I look forward to seeing you there! I will be operating alone as always, and I will of course be more than willing to answer any questions, or let you loose at the controls. I'll also appreciate any visiting locos and/or rolling stock; which reminds me, there are a few clearance issues for skirted/low slung locomotives which I need to address before the show.

Oh, and if you can't make Swanley, I'll also be exhibiting at Narrow Gauge South in Eastleigh next year!

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Sandy Shores @ Woodgreen - 2019

Woodgreen Model Show & Steam Rally 2019
This year saw our 11th show, and we're pleased to announce that we raised a whopping £1286; which will all be split between CLAPA & the Alzheimer's Society. We cannot thank our exhibitors, helpers/volunteers, cake-bakers, the church, and the general public for their outstanding support!
Year-on-year, the event grows, and we make more and more money for these worthy causes; without your help, this wouldn't happen, so we are truly grateful for everyone's support.
2020 will see the event get bigger and better, and we're already planning a strategic re-think of the layout of the hall to make more use of the space; as well as the church, so that we can cram in more layouts and displays.

"Sandy Shores" - I think this needs no introduction on this blog! I will add though that the layout ran very well, until the point motor that leads to the sidings would only throw one way; it also ripped up the switch rail on one side, but fortunately it just popped back into place. A little bit concerned as to why it all happened, but it's something I will need to try and rectify before I take the layout out again.

"Elmbridge" - N gauge - Tony Parker. Despite being only 5ft x 2ft, this layout shows just how much detail and interest can be crammed into a small space. It also featured some rather nice illumination:

"Buckleigh"- A OO gauge branch line layout by James & Chandler Thick & John Perry; based on Cadeleigh Station on the old Exe Valley line. Another well-detailed layout, with plenty of cameo scenes:

"Woolbridge" - Sedgmoor O Gauge Group. A wonderful branch line terminus on GWR and SR metals, set between the 1930s to the 1950s; complete with scratchbuilt buildings:

"Tramway" - An unusual end-to-end layout representing high street shops from Wilton - built by Peter Murchison. It features some wonderfully modelled trams, and humourously named shop fronts:

"Farmer's Wife's Layout" - O Gauge - A display from the period between the 1900s to 1930s. Bassett Lowke and Hornby locomotives and rolling stock, along with vintage vehicles and scenic items give off a real dose of nostalgia. Alongside this layout, is a display of WWI memorabilia; commemorating the end of World War I, and dedicated to railwaymen who fought in that war. Display by Reg & Mary Hunt:

Outdoor Exhibits: Various exquisite model traction engines, presented by the Wessex group:

And finally: - A few general views of the show, including the rather delicious array of homemade cakes and other delicacies!

All in all it was an absolutely wonderful event; not only did we raise a huge amount for charity, but the outpouring of support from just about everywhere was fantastic. Many, many helpers made the event run smoothly, and the donation of homemade cakes definitely went down a treat! 

Here's to next year!

Sunday, 5 May 2019

Sandy Shores - Making Waves

Despite two back-to-back weekends of exhibitions, there was still just enough time to make some last minute adjustments and additions to the layout. First up was to add a flashing light to the lighthouse. I had bought a cheap kit off of Amazon that was supposed to represent a typical slow flash... unfortunately, whilst soldering it all up was a breeze, the end result was a flash that wasn't the slow fade in and out I was hoping for! Oh well, it'll do fine for the Woodgreen show, I'll probably change it for future shows though.

Next up was to begin to ease the transition between the scenic and non-scenic section. Whilst this is only the beginning of my plans, the first idea was to add some slightly scenic-ed elements in the fiddle yard. First up was to make another sand dune, using the same methods as the rest of the layout. By cutting a basic shape of polystyrene with a hot wire cutter, we have this:

With the basic shape cut, the hot wire cutter was then used to make it look more sand dune shaped, with the rear side left vertical as it won't be seen. The polystyrene could then be glued with PVA, which was then weighed down overnight with a 500g weight. The following day, a layer of PVA could be brushed on, followed by a layer of polyfilla; which was applied with a glue spreader, and finally, using a slightly damp brush, smoothed. Once again, this was left to cure overnight. We'll continue this in a future blog entry!

So, still in the non-scenic section, I also decided to slightly scenic the train turntable. The first step was to paint the sleepers; this being done with a can of Plastikote Suede Touch spray paint. (I've had this can since Calshot, some 9+ years ago!). Once that had dried, I could crack on with covering the ply. As the scenic work needs only be very basic here, all I did was to cover most of it with a thin layer of PVA and play sand; and then ballast the track as per normal. I think I might add the odd tuft of marram grass here and there, and perhaps some barrow crossings to hide the PCB; but other than that, I think that'll be plenty to give an impression of there being something beyond the hole. It'll barely be seen from the scenic-side anyway!

Onwards to the next job, and that was to add some waves and ripples to the watery areas at the front of the layout. This turned out to be a really fun and easy experience. In truth, I had completely forgotten that I had this bottle of "realistic water" from Woodlands Scenics, as it's another left-over from Calshot! Whilst some of the deeper bits (i.e. in the tidal mudflats) took well over 48 hours to clear, they did eventually.

Note how, in the photo above, the ripples from the stream actually go towards the ocean, and not away (until the very edge of the board), as the stream discharges its water into the ocean.

The method of application was actually pretty straight forward. As the material is relatively viscous, it takes to shaping very well, making it easy to form waves and ripples. For the waves, I borrowed the technique from their own website: applying with a lollipop stick, and then standing the stick behind the material, and flicking it upwards towards the stick to form wave crests. The only thing not yet done is to highlight the crest of the waves with a brush of white paint. Anyway, you can watch how I made the waves in this quick timelapse video:

The tidal area was a doddle as it was simply a case of brushing (with a slightly damp brush) the material into the water channels. As mentioned, some of the deepest areas took over 48 hours to go fully transparent, but most took only 24 hours:

So there we have it, a few days worth of work, and Sandy Shores was ready for its outing to Woodgreen Model Show & Steam Rally. For more photos and details of the event, see my recent blog entry, here. As a little teaser, here's a photo I took of Sandy Shores at the event:

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Sandy Shores @ RMweb SWAG 2019, Taunton

Well the time was finally upon me to pack up my tiny car and make the 2 hour trip across to Taunton for the RMweb SWAG (South West Area Group) event. Up at 6am, I somehow managed to fit the layout and all its associated gubbins into the car first time with a few cloths and a remnant of carpet to give a bit of cushioning. As you can see, it was a tight fit; but I could still see out of my rear view mirror which was my primary concern:

Whilst I was late in heading off, I still managed to get to the venue with just enough time to spare to set-up before the visitors came. The wheeled trolley that I had built at the beginning of April really came into its own when setting up; as it meant I could put everything onto the layout and still be able to make adjustments to the siting of the whole thing. This saved a lot of back breaking moving!

The backscene was hastily attached with double sided sticky pads, and the whole ensemble was then ready for showtime, and backscene bulges aside, I have to admit, I'm very pleased with how it looked:

The stretchy grey layout drape that my mum had sewn for me really finishes off the layouts presentation very nicely indeed; as does the driftwood sign which saw quite a few compliments. For those wondering, I used the laptop on the stool to occasionally show people some of the construction methods and sketches.

I've said this elsewhere, but I cannot believe the amount of compliments, praise, and warm comments (as well as useful suggestions, and jovial discussions) that were had at the event. In fact, I had been talking to so many modellers in front of the layout all day that by mid-way through the event, the lovely kitchen helpers (in this case; Graham Muspratt of Fisherton Sarum fame!) had to bring me cups of tea as I couldn't get away from the layout!

Admittedly, the above photo is the only one I took of Sandy Shores, so I'm afraid you'll have to wait until Monday for any close up photos. However, if you really can't wait, Andy York has an absolutely cracking photo of it over on RMweb. There's also a lengthy interview with me flapping my arms about as I explain to Phil Parker (of BRM) various aspects of the layout; along with some great footage filmed by Andy. You can watch that here over on the BRM Facebook page.

As to the event itself, I've said it elsewhere, but I'll say it again; it's probably the most relaxed and enjoyable exhibition you could ever hope to attend. There was barely a minute that went by where I wasn't inundated with eyes gazing at the layout, and fellow RMweb members asking questions, giving lovely compliments, and generally just having interesting and humourous discussions with them. I spent way more time chatting to people than I did operating the layout; but that was actively encouraged which was a refreshing change from every other exhibition I've attended. It really was a friendly show; a real credit to all those involved. And what's more, they raised £500 for Macmillan Cancer Support which is a cracking result for a 1 day show.

The amount of interest the layout received was absolutely unbelievable. I'm still taken aback by it all; it was completely overwhelming (but in the best way possible!). I've had numerous invites to shows far and wide, and may even get the chance to feature in a publication in the summer somewhen.

So yes, I could not have asked for more!

And so, to finish off this entry, I realised I had never posted about my recent acquisition. During a few email exchanges with the talented James Hilton, I was looking for another loco commission when he offered for me to purchase one of his first creations. Naturally, upon inspection I immediately had to buy it off him; so I am the proud owner of a Bagnall Saddle Tank; wonderfully painted, weathered, and finished off with details and a driver:

A superb model, isn't it?! And it proved a most reliable and smooth runner, too. All in all, it's been a fantastic few days; and I'm so grateful for everyones' warm comments, compliments, suggestions, and general discussions. It's been a wild ride, and with our family show coming up this weekend, there are still a few things I need to sort out.