Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Roadmender

As you can see I've now expanded the road to form the factory yard which has allowed me to ballast the factory siding as well. Unfortunately I'm going to have to re-do part of the yard surface...... again.

To make sure the factory doesn't appear to float in mid air, I needed to embed it into the yard surface. On the first attempt I ended up placing the factory too far from the siding, leaving a rather huge gap from the loading bays to the wagons. By the time I realised this though the clay had dried solid and so I couldn't easily rectify the problem. To move the factory I had to cut out the rectangle of clay around it and start over.

Cutting out the first attempt, re-positioning the factory, and laying the new surface was easy, and everything looked great. Unfortunately I didn't do a very good job of smoothing out the new surface and levelling it with the first attempt. The result; a bumpy surface around the factory and an obvious straight line join between the two attempts. Of course I made sure you can't see these problems in the photo!

So I'm going to rub down the surface, and add a little more clay to smooth things out and to touch up a few places where the surface meets the factory wall then I'll repaint (hopefully with a slightly better colouring). Hopefully at that point I won't be embarrassed to show a photo that includes more of the yard surface.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Where The Blacktop Ends

So I've bitten the bullet and built the access road. There were two reasons I wasn't particularly looking forward to this bit. Firstly I wasn't sure what I was going to use as the road surface, but more importantly fitting the road would mean permanently incorporating the road bridge into the layout. In other words, if I messed up I'd have to build the bridge all over again, and as I've mentioned before it isn't the easiest of things to construct.

After my success with building the loading dok top, I decided to make the road surface out of the same air drying clay (it's a commonly available modelling clay called DAS but I can't seem to find a manufacturers website). As you can see it is now in place and painted. I tried to keep the colour from becoming too uniform by again painting with the slate gray pigment and then washing on black. As the surface is smoother though, it seems that the black wash has given a more even colouring, although it still has some variation.

The next job is to to extend the surface around the factory building to form the yard area. Once that is done I should then be able to finish ballasting the siding and fix the point lever in place. After that I think I can make a start on the more natural parts of the landscaping; grass, trees, etc.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Stand On The Rock

Since the last time I showed you an overall view of the layout I've added quite a number of small details and done a little more painting, although I still haven't tackled the access road yet.

The main item of painting has involved colouring the rock outcrops. Given that I've assumed there will be quite a build up of soot and smoke on everything, I've made the rocks quite dark as well. They were painted with a mixture of stone gray and black liquid pigments from Woodland Scenics, and then washed over with a heavily watered down black to pick out all the cracks and crevices. They don't exactly blend in yet, but hopefully once I add grass, trees etc. it will look a little more natural.

The main new detail is the loading dock which incorporates a small crane. The base of the loading dock is also a painted rock face, the idea being that when the railway and factory were built they simply modified the existing landscape to suit their needs. The top surface is modelled as large paving stones (remember that N gauge is 2mm to the foot so each slab is about 2 foot by 1 foot in size) and was a rather laborious hand crafted process. Firstly I cut a piece of thin cardboard to the correct size. I then covered the cardboard in air drying modelling clay. Once dry I then used a cocktail stick to scratch out the joints between the stones. The whole thing was then painted using the same slate gray pigment as the rock faces, before a wash of black paint (not the liquid pigment) was used to bring out the detail. It might have taken quite a lot of work but I'm really happy with how it looks. Of course the first thing I did once it was in place was to drill a hole through it!

While a loading dock would clearly be helpful at the factory I decided to give the workers a further helping hand by fitting a small hand operated crane. This crane is built from a Ratio plastic kit for a yard crane, but I've left out the supplied base and steps (I was going to re-use the steps at the edge of the loading dock but they aren't quite the right size so I'll have to build something else). At the moment it is a little too shiny and new so will need weathering in, but I think it really adds to the scene, and even rotates properly so I can move it out of the way should I have larger wagons in the siding.

The other detail item fixed in the scene is the set of buffers you can just see at the end of the siding. These have actually appeared in a couple of photos on the blog already but I haven't actually mentioned them. Again these are built from a kit, specifically the Peco kit for rail built buffers. They are glued to the track and ensure that no matter how hard I try I can't run off the end of the siding (believe me I've tried, accidentally of course).

Saturday, July 20, 2013

No Smoke Without Fire

In the previous post I showed you the flickering fire and smoke effects I'd added to the factory I've built for Jerusalem, but I left out one detail; the control board.

I did mention that the power comes from a 19V DC power adaptor liberated from a cheap OO gauge train set, but here you can see how that adaptor gets included in the setup. Yes this is what I was really producing when I was experimenting with laser engraving.

The datasheets for the power socket and switches contain accurate dimension information which I used to design the control board using the same techniques as the previous example of laser etching I showed. Even given the precision of the laser cutting and the accuracy of the dimensions I was slightly surprised when everything fitted together perfectly on the first attempt.

The final task was to wire everything together to provide power for the fire and smoke. Given that you can't really have smoke without fire, I've connected the switches so that you can turn the fire on without the smoke, but to get the smoke working as well you need to have both switches turned on. I'm really happy with how this all turned out, it's just a shame that the control panel will be hidden behind the backscene out of view when the layout is finished. Mind you I do have three more control panels should I wish to show them off (I thought I might need to modify the holes slightly and didn't know how resilient the acrylic would be so used up the small sheet with some spares).

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Flickering Fires Of Hell

In an effort to imbue my layout with a little more life I've added a couple of new things to the dark satanic mill; the flickering fires of hell and associated smoke. Neither fire or smoke is easy to capture with a photo so I've made a short video that should show the mill come to life.

If you've watched the video I'm sure that some of you might be interested in how I've produced the effects. I'll start with the smoke as that is easier to explain.

To produce the smoke I've fitted a Seuthe smoke generator inside the chimney (it's about 1cm from the top). You can see the smoke generator in the photo to the left; this was taken while I was testing how it works. It is actually very easy to use, you simply add a small amount of smoke fluid to the chimney using the supplied syringe and then apply electricity; it requires quite a bit of juice and I'm powering it with a 19V DC supply using the adapter from the cheap OO gauge train set I bought last year.

The flickering fire effect is a little more complex. Now I'm sure that I could probably have bought something for this purpose but I decided I'd prefer to build my own solution. Essentially the flickering is produced using five bright (6 million candles each) LEDs, 1 red and 4 yellow. These LEDs are connected to a small micro-processor (this is essentially a shrunk down Arduino) that runs a very simple piece of code to flicker the lights: randomly choose one of the LEDs, randomly set its brightness and then wait randomly up to 50ms before starting again. It's simple but effective, although I think it could improved by tweaking the minimum brightness of the LEDs.

Two simple additions which, I hope you agree, really help bring the factory to life.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Green And Pleasant Land

Since the previous post I've actually achieved an awful lot of landscaping on Jerusalem. Unfortunately I forgot to take any photos while I was doing the different sections so you'll just have to make do with this shot of the current state of play.

As you can see it has moved on quite a bit. I've now finished the main landscaping tasks; painted and ballasted the track, built the hill, added in some exposed rocks (cast using a Woodland Scenics learning kit, which I mentioned previously), and painted all the plaster with earth undercoat (this works better as a paint than it did as a mixer in the polyfilla). The next steps will include painting the rocks and finishing the road and surface around the factory.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Getting Plastered

It's been quite a while since I did any work on the landscape of Jerusalem but having now finished the main buildings I have no excuses not to get on with it. The first step is to fix the track in place; it would be silly to build a long tunnel without the track being down first.

I already had the 4% risers in place but I've now covered these in plaster bandage to match the only other bit of scenery that had been done so far. On top of the plaster bandage I've now added a thin layer of polyfilla to give a smoother finish and to fill in the holes in the bandage. I made the polyfilla up 1:1 with Woodland Scenics earth undercoat. I was hopping this would dry an earthy colour (the name would suggest so), but it has dried much paler than I expected, although it isn't a bad colour. My main reason for doing this (rather than just painting the undercoat on) is that if the plaster ever gets chipped it shouldn't show up as a bright white spot. Once the plaster had dried I then glued down the track.

Gluing down the track was much harder than I expected. Making sure the sections lined up around the oval was actually quite difficult, as was sticking it to a slightly uneven surface. If I ever build another layout then I will be putting the cork on top of the risers and gluing the track to the flat surface; not only will that make track laying easier but it should deaden the sound somewhat. While my current approach may not be perfect it works okay (I've run my locomotive around it quite a bit), and any problems should be hidden by the ballasting.

I've now started to paint the track and once that is done then I'll do the ballasting using the mixture I worked out before. So after all that it will still be a while before I get to build a hill!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Now With Added Grime

As I mentioned in the previous post, while I'm happy with how the factory has come together it was way too clean to represent a dark satanic mill, even if it is owned by S.A.Tan and Sons! This photo shows the current build up of grime that I've added to make the model a lot more realistic. I've used three different things to add the necessary muck.

Firstly I used an aerosol can of soot black from Modelmates to really darken down the roof and to take the shine off all the side walls. I've previously used their mud brown weathering spray to good effect and the soot black was equally useful. The only problem with using an aerosol can is that it can be difficult to direct accurately, so I applied it as a mist above the model allowing it to fall like rain. To make this a little more realistic I did this mostly from the position of the chimney so the directionality would be right.

Once I was happy with the soot, I then set about touching up small areas using a dark brown chalk. I've had a box of chalks for as long as I can remember (I have a feeling they might have belonged to my Dad) and I lightly scraped a little of chalk onto a piece of paper, from where I applied it with a paintbrush. I mostly focused on the sides of the roof which were still too clean until I was fairly happy with how it looked, although a few areas were still a little too clean. Fortunately at this point the post arrived. I've recently subscribed to the British Railway Modelling magazine and whilst the magazine hasn't arrived yet, my free gift has. The free gift was a set of Humbrol weathering powders so I attacked the building with some smoke and dark earth to give the final result you can see here, which I think looks a lot more realistic. Now I just have to get on with some landscaping to give it a proper home.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Devil... Is In The Details

So almost a month after starting to build the dark satanic mill for the layout I've now finished the structure, although there are sill some related tasks to finish.

One of the reasons it took so long was the number of work trips I've had recently as well as the good weather we've been having which has meant lots of gardening instead of modelling. The main reason, however, was that the two side walls that I'd shown you before (here and here) didn't actually end up as part of the final structure. While I was pretty happy with how they had turned out it wasn't until I had completed the two larger walls that I discovered that somehow I'd ended up with the two long walls a few bricks taller than the side walls.

The only solution was to break up the existing sides to re-use the etched brass windows and then to rebuild the two shorter sides. While this definitely added to the build time it wasn't a waste of time as I had learnt quite a lot between building the first wall and having to rebuild it so it went together a lot easier and looks neater.

Of course no factory would be complete without the owners name painted on it somewhere. The kit came with a couple of alternatives but neither really fitted the dark satanic theme I was going for, so I came up with using of having the mill owned and operated by S.A.Tan and Sons. Unfortunately no matter what I tried I couldn't manage to create a realistic looking sign; I was looking for fading paint on the concrete supports. Fortunately ADRIAN is much better at PhotoShop than I am and was more than happy to humour my odd request. He actually produced a number of variations before we settled on the one you can see here. I hope you agree it works really well. Thanks ADRIAN!

Although I'm really happy with how the building looks I think that you will all agree that while it might be a satanic mill it isn't really a dark satanic mill; no where near enough soot. I've had a go at rectifying this, but the result will have to wait for another blog post.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Innocent Railway

As I briefly mentioned in a previous blog post I recently spent a few days in Edinburgh at a project meeting. I'd saved up a few blog posts so that you didn't get bored while I was gone as I didn't expect to see anything railway related (other than the inside of a Cross Country express train). In the end I actually stumbled across something interesting: The Innocent Railway.

Project meetings can be quite intensive and to lighten the load slightly one evening is set aside for a social dinner. These dinners can end up being held in interesting places; in the past I've eaten in a Slovenian Castle and a Viennese vineyard. This time the meal was being held at The Sheep Heid Inn which is apparently Scotland's oldest surviving public house having been first established in 1360. As it was a nice evening I decided to see if it was feasible to walk there from my hotel (one of the few chances for some fresh air). Google Maps was happy to generate me walking directions and while writing them down I spotted that I was crossing a feature labelled as the Innocent Railway. A little bit of tweaking the route and it became clear that whatever the Innocent Railway turned out to be I could walk along it. So I set out with plenty of time to get the pub in order to investigate properly.

The first sign that I was looking at the remains of a substantial railway was as I turned right out of St Leonard's Lane onto a bike path to be confronted by The Engine Shed. Having looked at an old map the building was actually a goods shed; the engine shed was a couple of buildings to the west and appears to have disappeared under newer housing. Even if it wasn't an engine shed, such a large goods shed (the photo only shows about a third of the length of the building) definitely suggests that the area was once home to a fair amount of railway traffic. I continued following a succession of roads and short cycleways until I almost reached Holyrood Park Road where I discovered the original feature on the map which had drawn my attention.

On the map the feature was marked by a pair of dotted lines, so I should have been able to work out that I was looking for a tunnel, and what a tunnel it turned out to be. If you were trying to find the tunnel from the main road it would look as if you were trying to find the car park for a set of modern flats. What greats you though is a well built slightly slopping railway tunnel, that runs dead straight for about 200 yards before reappearing below Arthur's Seat.

Once through the tunnel I left the railway and doubled back slightly to rejoin the main road so I could head off for dinner, but you could easily see where the railway line continued on south eastwards (the third photo). So after thoroughly enjoying my dinner I finally made it back to my hotel where I set about trying to figure out what exactly the Innocent Railway had been.

From a fairly extensive web search I discovered that the Innocent Railway was the nickname given to the Edinburgh and Dalkeith Railway. The station and goods yard at St Leonard's was Edinburgh's first railway station which opened in 1831 to help bring coal into the city from Dalkeith. The railway got it's nickname from the fact that the railway used horses rather than steam power to haul the wagons (other than through the tunnel, where a stationary steam engine was used to winch the wagons into the station). It wasn't until the railway was bought by the North British Railway in 1846 that the rails were strengthened to allow for the use of steam locomotives.

None of the railway remains in use today, as it finally closed in 1968, although the route has been fully preserved as a cycle path (of which I only walked a short part). The three main important pieces of remaining infrastructure are the goods shed, the tunnel and a cast iron bridge. While I'm sure the goods shed is a well preserved example of its time the tunnel and bridge are of more historic interest.

It appears that the tunnel was probably the first railway tunnel constructed in Scotland and was cut through the hard volcanic rock of Arthur's Seat. I didn't get to see the cast iron bridge (it's further out of Edinburgh), but just like the tunnel it is one of the earliest examples of a cast iron railway bridge to have survived.

Given the railways age I'll finish this post with a highly processed, yet atmospheric, view of the tunnel (if you are interested it was produced using the daguerreotype filter in PaintShop Pro).