Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Also sprach Zarathustra

As the sun rose over Duchal Moor a random estate worker had to find a rock to sit down on when, after discovering a large randomly placed concrete block, his head was filled with strange brightly coloured visions of advanced technology.

Back in reality, while one end of the bridge over Blacketty Water is supported by a large rock outcrop the other end rests on a large concrete block. I think, by taking measurements from the photographs, that the block is approximately 5 feet tall, 1 foot deep, by 3 feet wide. Now I'm sure there are many ways I could model this block but I decided to try and make it from the same casting plaster as the rocks. So I built a small rectangular mould from plastruct stuck to a sheet of plastic. I used 4mm square section for the sides (which gives the 1 foot depth) but left one short side loose so that I could remove it after the plaster had set to help get the block out of the mould.

Once I had a suitably sized block it was then coloured using diluted Woodland Secnics concrete liquid pigment and a thin wash of the stone gray, before these were sealed with scenic cement and then a thin black wash applied to dirty the block a bit more. It will clearly need more weathering once it's bedded into the diorama but I think it's worked out quite nicely, although due to a few bubbles in the casting I might make a second block for the actual diorama.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Rocks, Rocks, and More Rocks

While yesterdays rocks were an improvement I decided that they were probably too uniform in colour, so I've had yet another go. In fact I had two castings to hand so I've used the same approach to paint two new rocks (at the front) in the same way to check the process is repeatable.

The two new rocks were both painted by first randomly covering areas in stone gray and concrete. Once dry a thin wash of stone gray was applied to the entire rock to both darken the colours and to blend the areas together. This initial base coat was then sealed using scenic cement before a thin black wash was run over the rock with extra black added to highlight obvious cracks and features.

This seems to give a similar overall impression to the rocks I painted yesterday but with a more natural looking variation across the surface. I think they look a lot better and hopefully I won't change my mind again tomorrow.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Rocky Road

After feedback, both here and on a thread on NGRM Online, I've had another go at painting rocks.

The two new rocks are at the front. Both were painted with a less diluted mix of stone gray and a thinner wash of black. The one on the left I used a much thinner black wash and focused it in on the details much more carefully. I think this works much better than the previous attempts as there is a nice base colour and plenty of variation. It might not be a perfect match but I think it's close enough to what I want and anyway lots of it will be covered in lichen, moss, and other gunk.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

As well as water one of the main features of the diorama I'm planning is the rock outcrop that supports one end of the bridge. Now I have cast and painted rocks before but on that occasion I wasn't trying to match the rocks to a specific spot, so I decided some more experimenting was in order; yesterday I cast a bunch of rocks and today I've slowly painted up a few small pieces to get a better idea of what colours might work.

While there are five rocks I've used just four different, heavily diluted, Woodland Scenics liquid pigments to paint them; four used just a single colour for the base coat, while one used a mixture of two colours. Starting at the front we have a small rock painted with black. Behind it on the left the rock was painted with concrete, while the rock on the right was a mixture of stone gray and black. At the very back on the left the rock was painted using just stone gray, while on the right I used earth undercoat. Once the colours had dried they were sealed with a thin layer of scenic cement and then a wash of black to help highlight the details.

I think the rock at the front that used just black is probably the closest to what I need although it needs lots of lichen and gunk adding. I'm not convinced by the two tone rock (second row, right) and the concrete is way too light. The stone gray looks good but I think even with dirt added etc. would be too light. The rock I coloured using earth undercoat is obviously very wrong for what I'm currently modelling, but if I wanted a sandstone outcrop I think it would work quite well.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Water Under The Bridge

Having decided that adding peat brown ink to Woodland Scenics Realistc Water showed promise I set about doing a slightly more in depth experiment. The plan was to generate a small test piece of plaster covered scenery where I could pour some water and see how it looked.

Annoyingly I forgot to take photos at a number of important stages but you can at least see the piece before I added the water and when I'd finished. The colours of the rock and ground aren't great (they were what I had to hand) plus I don't think I let the plaster dry for long enough before painting so it's a bit of a mess. Either way you can see what works and what doesn't regarding the water.

Basically if there is sufficient depth of water then it looks great, but if it is too thin the colour goes wrong. This is easy to work with on the actual diorama as I want a fairly even depth of water. The flow effects were done by adding Woodland Scenics Water Effects. I added some on it's own, but also some with a bit of Woodland Scenics snow mixed in. This did add a little sparkle but not much so most of the ripples were then dry brushed with ivory to make them look more like churned up water.

While not a completely successful experiment I think I'm fairly happy with the approach it just needs finessing slightly rather than totally rethinking. I'll probably have another go shortly but I'm fairly happy that I should be able to model the water well enough for the diorama to be believable.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Duchal Moor Railway

When I originally started work on a bridge for the Dave Brewer challenge I wasn't sure if I was going to copy an existing bridge or just use one for inspiration. That is why, until now, I've specifically not mentioned the bridge I'd been looking at. Of course, as comments on recent posts have shown, it's difficult for any of you to make comments on how accurate something I've modelled is if you have no real idea of what it should look like, so......

The Duchal Moor Railway, known locally as the Grouse Moor Line, was built by the shipbuilder James Lithgow to help transport people and equipment out to the shooting butts on the moor. When completed in 1922 there was approximately 7 miles of 2ft gauge track. The railway closed in the late 1970s and most of the line has disappeared back into the peat bogs it was built over. One of the remaining sections of the line includes a bridge over Blacketty Water which I'm using as the basis for my model.

Clearly it's not a particularly big or complex bridge but I was looking for something that I had a could model with a chance of finishing in time, and which would also let me experiment with a bunch of new techniques. To follow up on the question of sleeper size here is a comparison of the test piece of track and the real track.

Having measured from the photo, I think the majority of the sleepers are around 2' 9" wide but I've modelled them as 3' (so 12mm) to give a little more width. Even with the extra width they look very narrow due to the over sized spikes and heavier rail. Given there is not much I can do about the rail or the spikes (I really couldn't handle smaller spikes) I think the track looks like a reasonable representation, especially as when viewed from a normal distance the spikes blend in more than they do in the close up photo. I suppose the other option would be to just glue the rail down and not bother with the spikes given how small they are in real life but somehow that seems like cheating.

Anyway, now you all know what bridge I'm basing my model on hopefully you'll keep making helpful comments as I continue experimenting and then building the final model.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

OO8: 4mm Scale, 2ft Gauge Track

One of the problems of modelling in OO9 (9mm gauge track in 4mm scale) is that often the track isn't really to scale. 9mm track at 4mm to the foot is 2' 3" but narrow gauge railways varied quite widely in their choice of track gauge. In Britain possibly the most common gauge was 2 ft meaning that 9mm track is 1mm too wide.

The bridge I'm building for my entry to this years Dave Brewer challenge carried a 2ft gauge railway and given I'm aiming for the smallest entry category (to make it easier to transport on the train) I thought it made sense to produce track to the correct gauge so I give you my first attempt at OO8 track (8mm gauge track modelled at 4mm to the foot).

As you can see this combines the numerous experiments I've been blogging about recently (here, here, and here) to produce a short test piece. Producing actual track using rail spikes in this scale is exceedingly time consuming. I've probably spent about 10 hours producing this small piece, although by the end of that I'd got a system going that means producing more will be quicker but not by much. On the plus side the track is to scale and an accurate representation of the real track I'm modelling right down to the number and placement of rail spikes. The spikes look a bit too big in the photos and they probably are, but in real life they blend in quite well.

I'm really happy with how the track has turned out, although it has meant that the number of hours I thought I'd need to build the diorama for the challenge has increased quite substantially. I should still have enough time though so I'm not worried.... yet.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Clayton #5843: Now With Wheels

While the parts on their own looked good I thought it was worth showing you how the loco looks roughly assembled with wheels fitted.

Obviously the axles need cutting down in length, but they were just fitted to test that the bearings were nicely aligned and that the chassis would roll freely. Unfortunately I found that the holes for the bearings were slightly too small. I'd intended brass bearings to be a push fit into the print but I had to ream out the holes slightly for the bearings to fit. This was easy enough to do for the wheels, but the holes for the layshaft bearings are harder to access so they will need to be made slightly bigger on the next print to make life easier.

First Prototype of Clayton #5843

I had a Shapeways order arrive yesterday which should give me even more things to blog about so you don't get bored with my bridge building experiments. There were parts for quite a few new models in the order but I'll start with showing the parts for the Clayton battery electric locomotive I described back at the end of May.

From an initial look at the parts they have printed quite well with only a few places that might need smoothing down before painting. I have, however, discovered two issues. Firstly with the print as I designed it I can't actually fit the motor, and the fixing between the top and bottom isn't perfect.

As the motor I'm using doesn't have any fixing holes built in I designed the mount to hold it in place with a friction fit. Unfortunately I didn't leave enough space to angle the motor down through the front part of the mount. Fortunately I think I'll be able to file down part of the mount to fit the motor, and then update the digital model when I know if that works or not.

While the top and bottom parts fir together well, the upper part is ever so slightly bowed. While only slight pressure is required to flatten it this isn't possible once the parts are fitted, and the mounting screw holes are at the wrong end to make any difference. Fortunately I think a slight redesign of the motor mount to provide a slightly tighter fit of the two parts would cure this so again not a real problem.

So even with those issues the model looks promising. I'll clean up the print and then start trying to build up the model. The bottom part will actually need painting before assembly (no way of painting behind those wheels among other things) but painting the top part will have to wait until the etched parts arrive. Anyway there is no rush as long as I'm enjoying myself.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Rail Spikes

So, having arrived at a much better approach to painting rusty surfaces I've now turned my attention to the track, specifically how I'm going to affix the rail to the sleepers. The bridge I'm using as inspiration for my entry to the Dave Brewer challenge, which is still a secret for now, uses a fairly light rail held to the sleepers using metal spikes.

All the track I've hand built before has used copper clad sleepers and I've simply soldered the rail in place. Clearly this won't work for rail held down by spikes. So firstly I'm going to use sleepers made from plywood (hence my experiments at painting wooden sleepers) but more importantly I need a source of spikes that will hold the rail in place. My intention is to use code 40 rail, which is pretty small, and I haven't been able to find anyone who sells spikes for such small rail. What I did find though was a series of articles in NG&IRM Review by John Clutterbuck (which were republished in 2008 as a free download) about making track. While John models in 7mm scale using larger rail, he happens to make his own spikes from..... staples.

The approach I've taken mostly follows John's description but with a few changes to take into account the smaller rail size.

I bought the smallest staples I could find but they are still made from quite a thick metal (about 0.45mm) so having used masking tape to keep them together I filed the edges down a bit to make the corner a lot thinner (I had to use diamond files to really make much impression on the steel). Once I'd filed down both sides I used a set of track cutters to cut off the legs of the staples keeping just a tiny amount of the curve. All the spikes were then separated from each other before soaking for about 5 minutes in nail varnish remover (the stuff I "borrowed" from my wife is acetone free but I'm guessing acetone would also work) to ensure the metal is clean and that the plastic coating applied to staples has come off; you end up being able to see the bits of plastic floating in the solution. The spikes were removed from the nail varnish remover (a magnet makes this nice and easy) and dried before being soaked in Carr's metal black. They turn black almost instantly if they are nice and clean but again I left them for about 5 minutes, before removing and drying them.

I still need to figure out the best way of actually using the spikes to fix rail to sleepers but for a quick test I drilled a small (0.45mm) hole and pushed a spike through the sleeper, added the rail so I could accurately drill a second hole for the second spike. Once both spikes were firmly pushed through I held them in place with a drop of superglue added from below. Once this had dried I cut off the excess spike and filed them flush with the bottom of the sleeper.

For a first attempt at making and using rail spikes I think this has worked well.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Just Rust: Take 2

On reflection, and given the very helpful and constructive criticism from Paul and Iain, I've gone back and had a second go at rusting a bit of rail and girder. While the powder based approach might work well for rail dumped in a bog for a few years I admit that it wasn't so good at representing rusting surfaces which tend to discolour without such serious pitting.

On this second attempt I again started with red oxide primer and then started to add shading using the same paints as before. At this stage I wasn't entirely convinced that I was getting anywhere but the addition of some weathering powders (rust and dark earth) seems to have pulled things together nicely. Not only does the texture look more convincing but I think the colour is better as well. Hopefully you all agree?

This episode reinforces the main reason I enjoy blogging and getting comments; without Paul and Iain's feedback I may well have just continued with my first approach and the final model would have suffered as a result.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Just Rust

I grabbed a few minutes today (spread out a bit) to have a crack at another experiment which I'll need for the bridge I'm planning for ExpoNG. I'm reasonably happy with adding rust as a detail to a model but I've never tried to paint an entire item completely rusty. There are plenty of rust coloured paints and washes available but the problem is you need texture as well as colour variation as a well rusted surface tends to be pitted. On the bridge I'm modelling there is quite a lot of rusty girders and flat-bottomed rail so I needed to experiment a little.

What you are looking at here is a piece of girder at the back (which is just 3.2mm tall) and a piece of code 60 rail at the front. Both have been treated in the same way. To get the pitted effect I first sprayed on a layer of red oxide primer before gently sprinkling on some light weight hydrocal casting powder (it was the finest stuff I had to hand that didn't want to clump) to the wet paint. I then knocked off most of the powder, allowed the paint to dry for a second or so and then sprayed a second layer of primer. This seems to give a really nice texture although I might have added a bit too much powder to the rail sides. Once this was all dry I liberally dabbed on some MIG Productions Standard Rust Effects which provided some nice variation in colouring and shading. I then dry-brushed on a small amount of RailMatch Light Rust (#2404), before some final dabs of a rust wash from Flory Models.

The photo is very unforgiving and from a normal viewing distance the texture is less pronounced and I'm fairly happy with how they look.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Bridge Over Troubled Water

Having really enjoyed my trip to the 009 Society AGM back in April I've made the decision to attend the other big narrow gauge modelling show of the year, ExpoNG, at the end of October. As well as going to enjoy the modelling on show and to socialise I'm also hoping to have the kit for the Hudson-Hunslet ready by then as well which if it's a success will help with the expense of getting to Kent for the show.

ExpoNG presents a number of awards each year for layouts but they also have an open modelling competition, the Dave Brewer Memorial Challenge. Unlike the 009 Society competition this isn't just about locomotives or rolling stock and in fact the rules change every year. This year the competition is all about building a bridge. Specifically the rules are:
  1. The model bridge may use any scale and gauge combination, as long as it represents a narrow (ie less than 4 ft 8.5 ins) gauge, with a maximum gauge of 45 mm.
  2. The model can be any type of over or under-bridge and should be complete with abutments and track.
  3. The model may be wholly scratch-built, or use parts from kits or commercial models, but no unaltered kits or commercial models can be entered.
  4. To ensure we can fit entries into the available space please use these maximum sizes:
    1. 50 cm by 25 cm by 35 cm high for gauges 32 mm and above, to a maximum of 45 mm.
    2. 40 cm by 20 cm by 25 cm high for gauges 14 mm and above, but less than 32 mm.
    3. 30 cm by 15 cm by 20 cm high for gauges 9 mm and above, but less than 14 mm.
    4. 20 cm by 10 cm by 15 cm high for all gauges below 9 mm.
  5. The model should not have been entered in any previous competition.
  6. To be eligible, completed entry forms must be received by 31st August 2015.
  7. To be eligible, models must be presented for judging at Expo Narrow Gauge 2015.
  8. A prize, including one year’s subscription to Narrow Gauge World, will be awarded to the winner.
  9. The judges’ decision is final.
Given that I still find producing effective scenery a lot more challenging that building wagons etc. I thought building a small diorama (with a bridge) to a deadline would be a good idea. I had originally thought about building something in O14 so I would have somewhere to display the Clayton battery locomotive, but as I'll be travelling down on the train I'm thinking a small diorama would be better especially as it's going to need a sturdy box to transport it.

I have decided what I'm modelling but for now I'm planning on keeping it as a surprise for the day. I will, however, blog about the build as I go along as there will be a number of experiments that I'll need to make before committing to the final version. Without describing the bridge in detail I can say it's fairly decrepit looking and crosses peat coloured water. This means that I need to be able to model (among other things) peaty water and sleepers that have been weathered almost to a silver colour.

Having never tried to model water before I decided that this was likely to be the main problem I'd have to overcome. There are a number of products available for modelling water but they all seem to produce crystal clear water which isn't what I wanted. Asking around on the forums and most people suggested that I'd be best using a number of layers of yacht varnish to create the effect I wanted but I've never had much luck varnishing furniture so I didn't really fancy this route. The other option was to add colour between layers or into the water products, but again I couldn't find many people who had done this to model what I was after; the one exception being the stream on Tom Dauben's Dunbracken layout (a good photo of the stream can be found here). Tom told me that he'd used the Woodland Scenics Realistic Water and Water Effects products to create the stream with colouring applied to the stream bed and between a few layers. Armed with this information I set out to do an experiment or two.

My original intention had been to paint the stream bed (in this experiment a bit of white card) and then pour the water to see how it worked, but while browsing in WH Smiths I discovered that Winsor & Newton do a peat brown ink. So armed with the ink, some paints, and the Realistic Water I did an experiment. I first painted patches of the ink and burnt umber acrylic paint on the cardboard. I then coloured the water using a few drops of ink before pouring it onto the cardboard (the weird chunk at the top I'll come back to). The colour looks better in real life and what I've found is that the ink works well not just for colouring the water but helping simulate depth where I used it to paint the cardboard. the burnt umber patch seems too dark and different from the water to be believable, although that could just be because you can see the edges so clearly. The weird chunk is because I had a little bit of the mixture left so added a bit more ink to make it darker and then left it to dry in the pot. Once dried I removed it from the pot and decided it was way too dark. Unfortunately I then put it down on top of the experimental pour and left it there overnight. The following morning it was stuck. Anyway I'm really happy with this first experiment. Obviously I'll need to repeat it using some proper scenic materials (i.e. plaster) for the stream bed, and probably multiple layers of water to get more depth but it certainly appears to have promise.

As some of you may remember it took me quite a few attempts to get a well worn wood effect sorted when painting wagons and they are a very different colour than exposed sleepers would turn (or at least I think so looking at photos etc.), so I wasn't looking forward to coming up with a new approach, but I think I've found something that works reasonably well.

The sleepers aren't the right size as I just chopped up and distressed some coffee stirrers but hopefully the painting will work regardless of the size. I started by soaking them for a minute or so in a 10:1 mixture of isopropanol and Indian ink. This doesn't turn them jet black but allows the ink to settle into distressed bits of wood quite well. I then painted the sleeper using the peat brown ink used for the water. The black sections show through giving a nice variation and depth to the cracks etc. I then followed this by dry brushing with dark sand, ivory, and finally gun metal. This approach seems to work nicely as close to you can see lots of the grain and colour variation, yet when viewed from a distance, especially with the light falling on them, they look very light in colour which matches what I was hoping for.

So I might not have actually modelled anything but hopefully I now have a good idea of most of the techniques (although not all) that I'll need to complete the bridge for the challenge.