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!

Sandy Shores - Mud, lighting, ballasting, and building!

Continuing on from the last post; this one documents the progress between the 2nd and 4th of May.

So, lets begin with the pond at the back of the layout. Unfortunately I forgot to take photos of every stage, but I'll try and remember what I did! As it stood originally, the pond was rather too blue; being in what's called a "slack" in the sand dunes, the chances are that the pond would be rather more brown and green than blue! Whilst I can't find a comparison photo of how it started out, the photo below shows the pond repainted in various mucky shades of brown and green. In hindsight this still looks a little blue in places, but the next stage hid that part anyway!

Once that had dried, I began adding some ballast to the perimeter of the pond (to help give the edge of the pond some texture) and gave it a thin wash of grey to tone it down a little. Meanwhile, lumps of old hardened DAS clay were broken apart with a hammer and positioned around the pond. I also sprinkled some finer bits of DAS clay around the outside of each of the big rocks to help blend it in. These were also given a wash of dark and light grey paint, and finished off with a bit of green around the base since this part would be submerged in water. As you can see, the final step (for now) was to start adding layers of PVA; stippling it on with an old brush. In reality, I'm probably going to try and find a cheap substance that I can pour in to give the pond (and the mudflats around the harbour) some depth as I'm not happy with the outcome. However, the stream leading from the pond to the front of the layout seems to be perfect for the PVA water method since it would not be a deep stream at all!

And finally with the 5th layer of PVA. As you can see, more depth is definitely required!

With that area sorted out (minus vegetation), I moved on to the harbour area. I've been trying to work out how to model the mudflats for absolutely ages. With internet searches bringing up absolutely nothing, I instead started rummaging through my various boxes looking for something suitable. Happily, I found some very old brown scatter. Using that, some brown emulsion paint, and some Polyfilla (left over from Calshot all those years ago!), I made a brown Polyfilla paste. The scatter helped to give some much needed extra texture to the mix.

Working relatively quickly (so that the Polyfilla didn't set before I had a chance to apply and sculpt it), I applied the paste with the glue spreader. To get it smooth, a little bit of water on the end of my finger proved the most effective method.

Observing photos of real life mudflats (in this case, Ashlett Creek; you may remember that Sandy Shores is intended to be a test bed for Old AGWI Rd, of which Ashlett Creek features on one board.), I noticed that when the tide is more-or-less out, the mudflat around edges of the waterline is somewhat pitted, whilst the rest has a few depressions and a various lines leading in the direction of the water. To represent the pitting, a stiff old brush was used to stipple the Polyfilla mix whilst still somewhat wet; the lines produced by simply dragging the stiff brush across the surface.

After that was done, a few layers of PVA were stippled on, although as mentioned, I will need to find something that I can pour into the deep channels to better represent the water.

But for now, it was time to tackle probably one of the biggest and most important tasks - the ballasting! I didn't bother taking photos of the stages involved, but I'll briefly explain:
- Firstly, the ballast was collected in a little box made of styrene (Those of you having been here from the start will know it as the original water tower, before I was realised it was far too big!), and was then gently tapped to release ballast carefully into place on the tracks.
-  I usually start around the edges of the sleepers, then do the strip in the middle; to reduce the amount I get on the sleepers, this is done very slowly and carefully!
- Next up, I use a soft make-up brush to very gently tap the ballast into place. Do this carefully enough and you'll get some pretty neat results - you can even use it to gently move any stray ballast of the sleepers. Some prefer to tap the rails with something hard, but I have mixed results with that method.
- Then it's time to glue the mix down. Unfortunately I don't have a plant mister (and couldn't get one in time), otherwise I would've used that to prepare the ballast for the incoming glue and water mix. The gluing is done via the classic 50:50 PVA to water mix, with an additional few drops of washing-up liquid to help with dispersion. Unfortunately this ballast (Woodlands Scenics - fine buff) seems to struggle with dispersion, so I'd advise misting it with water first if you are able to. I'd advise covering the larger sleepers around the point tiebars with blutac to stop any glue seeping into it (and the point motor) and jamming it up. This little bit of ballasting can then be done afterwards with a lot more precision and care.

So after a number of pretty tedious (but also somewhat relaxing) hours, the ballasting was complete! A little bit of clearing up was needed in places, but overall the effect was far neater than I have managed previously. Something I also did at this point was to add some spilt sand in places where it is likely - you can see a bit of that in the photo below; both in the areas between the track, and around the edges of the sand dunes (seen here on the top left). This helps to soften the transition between ballast and sand. In time, I will give the track a bit of weathering, and probably add more sand in places.

Anyway, with the major scenic work done, and with time running out, it was time to focus on the little things that need doing. The first of which was the fault line that runs by the loco shed headshunt.; this was filled in with Polyfilla. In hindsight, I guess I should've put some of the sand coloured emulsion paint in the mix, but oh well - lessons learnt for next time! This was of course then followed by paint and then play sand (or ballast around the tracks).

Next up on the list of small jobs was... well... let's see if you can guess...? (Hint: I'm not making white flags to surrender!)

Haven't got it yet? OK, what about this (Hint: It's also not a cow feeder!)...

Figured it out yet? Nope, it's not a garden gazebo! It's in fact the beginnings of the lighthouse lantern room! Obviously much work is needed on it, but the general shape is there at least. Simply formed from Plastruct I-beams, thin plasticard and the glazing windows from Will's sheets packaging. Later on I added some rain strips to the roof, but these aren't shown in this photo. Still yet to do on the lighthouse include; fitting the glazing bars midway up the "glass" windows, producing the interior,  scribing the outside balcony, fitting a false floor in the lantern room, adding windows to the main building, painting and weathering, fitting and painting the handrails... the list goes on!

But let's move on to something I did have time to sort out - the uncoupling magnets. Fashioning a guide for setting the depth of magnets out of thick plasticard, I drilled the holes a bit deeper, and glued the magnets at the right depth using the guide. These were then covered in ballast, which was promptly glued.

Next up (by this time it was about 10pm on the day before the show!), it was time to finish the lighting rig, at least enough for it to be usable for the show. To that end (after a failed first attempt) we (my dad and I) finally finished soldering the 4 lengths of LED strip together with layout wire. This proved rather more fiddly than expected, as the contacts themselves were pretty tiny. But we got there in the end! Oh, and the cable trunking was also cut to 4 lengths - two for the front, one for the middle, and one for the back of the layout. As you can see in the photos below, we had to use two sizes of mini-trunking since we ran out of the larger stuff. Actually I guess the smaller is better anyway - since you are less likely to be blinded when down low. Although in reality, both do their job absolutely fine.

Originally I was going to suspend the cable trunking to the underside of the softwood battens, but in the end I decided to just carefully place it on top of the layout for the duration of the show. In future, I'll probably just drill holes on the ends of each length, and use some wire suspend it from the frame. As you'll see in the photo below, the thinner trunking is some bent, but this won't be much of an issue once it's suspended.

And so that brings us on to the final thing to be done until the morning of the show; the grounded carriage. After a quick paint of white (I didn't bother doing the two-tone blue of the lower half - that can wait until after the show) and a roof cut out from sand paper, we have the basic shell of the building complete. Obviously it needs a heck of a lot doing to it (including windows, roof rain strips etc), but it's getting there!

There's still one more blog entry (the show report) that I am yet to write up, but I'm afraid I've spent hours putting this post together, so I'll have to put that up either later on today, or more likely, tomorrow. Either way, I hope you've enjoyed this update, and although it's been a stressful two weeks, I think the result has been a huge boost to my modelling confidence!

As a bit of fun, here's a list of what happened, and when, over 2 days:

3rd May (Gaps indicate periods away from modelmaking)
- Layer of PVA (4th) [10am]
- Paint little outhouse on tiny jetty [11am]
- Mudflat [1pm]
- Quay posts [1.15pm]
- Layer of PVA (5th) [1.20pm]
- Spill some sand onto ballast + glue it [2pm]

- Paint black sleepers [3.10pm]
- Layer of PVA [3.30pm]
- Loco shed floor [4pm]

- Filling in gaps with polyfilla [7.30pm]
- Layer of PVA [7.50pm]

4th May
- Layer of PVA [9:45am]
- Lighthouse lantern room [10.10-3.10pm]
- Layer of PVA [3:20pm]
- Filler painted [3:35pm]
- Re-lay magnets [4:00pm]
- Cut off point motor pole excess [4:27pm]

- Lighting rig [11:20pm]
- Structures glued, doors on loco shed glued etc. [0:05am]
- Finish little shack [0:30am]
- Carriage [1.30am]

Saturday, 5 May 2018

Sandy Shores - Beach Building

With apologies for the delay in posting - as you can imagine, I've been somewhat busy getting the layout up to a decent enough standard to show to the public. Having only a two week deadline meant long days (over 12 hours), late nights, and at times frustration. I know a lot of modellers realise that deadlines sort of ruin the fun of this fantastic hobby - and, whilst I am inclined to agree, I also can't help but point out that deadlines are a very good way of getting stuff done!

With very little railway modelling having been done over the past year, it was actually only the deadline that really pushed me to make decent amounts of progress. I've done a hell of a lot more because of it than I otherwise would have done. And in fact, I've even tackled jobs that I've been putting off - that perhaps would've otherwise not been done for many months. But on the other hand, longs hours and a seemingly everlasting list of things to complete does induce a lot of stress. Stress which this hobby is supposed to suppress.

So yes, deadlines are great for getting stuff done... but not so great for your sanity!

Anyway, enough of that, let's focus on the progress for the past few days. Let's start off at the beach; and a reminder of how it started off as:

Above: As you can see, not only is there a large gap underneath the lighthouse, but the beach lacks any form of proper boundary with the stream. But let's sort out the beach height first:

Above and below: So as is always the case with major landforms; the first step I take is to make a rough template using old newspaper. Due to the fact the beach will slope towards the front of the layout, in the end, you'll see that the front bit of the template wasn't used:

Below: Once I was happy with the basic shape, it was glued with PVA, and left to cure for a few hours with some weights on top:

Below: So, whilst that was curing, my attention turned to something else - layout lighting. A while back, Michael Campbell posted on his latest layout thread his results with 4000K LED strip. You may remember I had originally used cheap RGB LED strip; but was never truly happy with the colours (despite that the RGB values could be adjusted). The results of his purchase seemed to produce much more natural colours than I have ever managed with any lighting rig I've made; so I followed suit! As you'll see, the result is pretty much spot on in my opinion...

Obviously, colour is hard to perceive through a photo, and even more so through a monitor, but it's clear to see the improvement! Not only do the colours seem natural, but the lights are very bright, and very little would be needed for a layout like this. In one of the upcoming posts, I'll show you the final set up. The photos above and below were both taken at night, with the only source of light being the LED strip.

Below: Now going back to the beach (since it's had time for the glue to cure), it was time to use up the rest of the clay I had and cover the whole thing in it. In actual fact, I'd probably recommend something like Polyfilla for this since clay gets quite heavy, but for a small layout like this, it's not really a concern for me. Anyway, I was also keen to cover up any holes under the groyne, and also to show that some sand would have spilled through the many cracks!

With a small amount of clay left, it seemed a shame to waste it; it's then that I realised the transition from the beach to the stream was somewhat poorly executed. A little while later, and we have the beginnings of the small sand "cliffs" caused from erosion that form the bank of the stream as it carves its way through the beach.

After that, it was the standard method of painting, gluing play sand on, then lastly a thin wash of more paint to form the necessary look and texture of the beach. With only 3 days left by this point I had the sudden realisation that I should really be getting the first signs of water on the layout. First though, I wanted to add a little more texture and some slightly more realistic colouring into the stream bed. Given that the stream at this point would just be carved out of the sand, I sprinkled some play sand along the stream, and then set about repainting it to give a smoother transition from the murky pond to the almost clear sea. The final photo below shows the first of many (about 5 or 6) layers of PVA to go on the water areas - it's still drying in the photo; hence the murkiness.

So that'll be it for this post; the next one will show the next couple days of progress. For now though, I need some sleep after all these late nights, and a full day of showing the layout (I'll post about that eventually, when I am able to catch up!).

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Sandy Shores - Grounded Carriage - Part 1

Oh boy. Sometimes you start a job and soon think to yourself; "I must be crazy.". Today has been a bit like that! To be fair though, I knew damn well what I was getting myself in for...

I was originally going to start work on building the beach up around the lighthouse, but due to the cold weather (that made the room that the layout currently lives in pretty chilly), I decided to make a start (at long last) on the grounded railway carriage. It's not based on a particular prototype, but rather an appropriation of pre-grouping 4 wheel carriages. At the end you'll see my mistake, but for now let's start the 8+ hour journey of building the basic shell!

Above: So, the first step was to begin marking out onto the balsa wood (the balsa was cut out a few days ago, but I wanted to keep everything in one post). For this I found a spare compass point, but you'll see why I changed to a sharp blade instead later.

Above:You can begin to see the slight problem with using the compass point - all lines going against the grain are somewhat imprecise. Note the steel square for keeping everything straight!

Above: After about an hour and a half (yes, really!), the lean-to extension was marked out. The ruler should give an indication of how fiddly the process was. (Thank goodness I'm not modelling in a smaller scale!)

Above: A while later, I decided to begin on the back side of the grounded carriage (Which won't be visible really) to experiment with using the Dremel (with tiny router bit) to carve out the panels and windows. I soon realised that the result was... somewhat messy. Not only was it hard to get into the corners, and also to keep the depth consistent; but the other difficulty with this method was that the balsa wood is so soft that it can be difficult to feel when you're actually cutting into it!. I'll come back to the solution in a bit, but first...

Above: ... it was over to my dad (with his carpentry expertise!) to carefully form the curve at the bottom of the carriage. As you can see, he first used a small plane to get the majority of the material off, then went over it with a bit of sandpaper (wrapped around lollipop sticks; yet another use for them!) to form a smooth curve.

Above: After that was done, he kindly began to mitre every corner (using a 45 degree angle guide, a sharp craft knife, and then sandpaper).

Above: Which meant I could carry on with the scribing. After the messy outcomes of my first methods, I decided to use that same sharp craft knife instead of the compass point. The result of this are much cleaner lines.

Above: And after a bit of thinking, I experimented with some precision (flathead) screwdrivers to carve out the windows and panels. I first tried using them like a chisel, but the balsa wood was too soft; I would quite often end up taking off chunks. A bit of head scratching later and then it became obvious - use the soft balsa to it's advantage; its softness! The solution was to press and drag the screwdriver into the balsa (of course, being very careful, and only going with the grain direction).

Above and below: And many hours later, I finally finished all the carving out. The result doesn't quite stand up to close scrutiny, but the results aren't too bad considering! You can probably see the mistake I made; with the original drawing, I made little allowance for window and door frames! The result of this is that I could only fit in 3 of the 4 passenger compartments. I'm currently undecided whether to just cut off the last centimetre or so, or add in another door and small window (guard/brake compartment?!). So far I haven't seen any examples of such a small compartment, so I'll probably end up just cutting it off.

The rest of the images below: And here we have today's work, all loosely held together by masking tape. I'll obviously need to add in a longitudinal beam underneath the carriage sides, but other than that, I think it's looking OK.

Obviously the windows will need to be fully cut out, but I think the real test of "Will this work?" will be when it comes to painting it. I'm actually pretty nervous, as I'm really not sure if it will end up looking like I hope it will. I'm undecided, but my current thinking is that the bottom half (below the windows) will be painted a pale blue, and the top half white.

Anyway, realistically I only have 4 days left to get the layout to a presentable state; so I'm going to have to start ballasting, building up the beach, and adding the 'water' tomorrow!

Saturday, 28 April 2018

Sandy Shores - More wooden structures

Despite the deadline fast approaching, progress has been somewhat slower than I hoped the past few days; life does find ways of sucking all your modelmaking time away! Regardless, the wooden groyne and walkway up to the lighthouse have both been added. First up, the groyne:

Above: The first step as always to to start marking out and cutting up wooden lollipop sticks. I've had a box of these for many many years, and haven't even got halfway through them yet! The little chopper tool is absolutely invaluable for work like this. Note the balsa lengths already cut to size in the background.

Above: Since the lollipop sticks are a little too thick for this job, the easiest way to get them down to size was with a sandpaper attachment on the Dremel. In order to prevent a snowstorm of sawdust, I've also got the vacuum cleaner on at the same time!

Above: I wasn't looking for a uniform thickness (the sea would make relatively short work of even the most robust wood), so the little bumps are fine that are visible in the photo above. Note also I've used a slitting disc in the Dremel to cut random holes in the most vulnerable lengths.

Above: And now for something I don't usually do (but will continue doing from now on!), "distressing" the wood with a wire burring disc (again in the Dremel). The same treatment was done on the balsa uprights, although you need to take more care due to the soft nature of the wood. Thankfully, I'm looking for some serious water and wind-beaten effects, so any serious damage is absolutely fine; some places I really pressed hard (particularly around the holes), to suggest rotten sections.

Above: Here's a before and after shot. The grain showing through nicely on the left. This will also prove handy when it comes to weathering.

Above: After having fixed the various components together with wood glue and old track fixing nails, it was time to make holes in the layout with which to locate the groyne. Note that the slatted side is on the lighthouse side; remember, we need to build the beach up on this side, which is a perfect excuse for a groyne.

Above: Now it's time to start weathering it. My usual process for wood is used; starting with the wash of gunmetal grey...

Below: ... then a wash of brown sand...

Below: ... and finally a drybrushing of a combination of light sand and white (for that sunbleached look).

 Below: As I said earlier, the other wooden structure that needed attention was the footbridge going up to the lighthouse. The original handrail posts were too thick, so they completely replaced; as were some of the planks on the top. Everything here is (as always) made of cut-up lollipop sticks. Surprising how small you can cut them up!

Below: And finally, here it is painted the same way as groyne (although I haven't got around to drybrushing the white/sand colour yet so it's too dark). You may also note I've finally added the clay top to the lighthouse tower, as well as the curve underneath the balcony.

And so that brings us up to date! I've also ordered the LED lighting for the layout, so that should arrive in time for the exhibition. Let's hope so anyway!