Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Kits, Kits, and Yet More Kits!

I've now finally finished packing all thirty of the first batch of Narrow Planet kits for my Hudson-Hunslet locomotive. Most of this batch has already been sold although a handful will be on sale on Saturday at ExpoNG. If you've ordered one and are expecting it in the post then I'm just organizing the padded envelopes and should be able to post them out by Monday at the latest.

I'm amazed how popular the kit has been. So popular in fact that we are already planning a second batch!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Signs of Life

Now I know I said I wouldn't post any more photos of the diorama until after the next Saturday, but that doesn't stop me showing you another small detailing piece I put together yesterday.

The railway line that this bridge forms part of was originally built across Duchal Moor to take people out to the shooting butts and was locally known as the Grouse Line. Given it's history it would seem that if I wanted to add any wildlife to the model, it should be a grouse. Unfortunately while I looked high and low for a model I could buy I couldn't find anything. The solution, as with pretty much all of the diorama, was to make one from scratch. To make it obvious what the bird is supposed to be I opted to model a black grouse with it's distinctive red wattles over the eyes.

In theory I had an easy to follow plan. Make an outline from fine wire, fill out the outline, and then paint. The first step was easy. I found a nice drawing online which I then scaled down to the right size to use as a template. I then taped a piece of 0.15 mm silver plated wire onto the drawing starting at the legs, before slowly bending it to match as close as I could the drawing. With the two ends together at the feet I twisted the wires together to give me something to use to fix it into the diorama.

Filling out the outline was harder though. My first attempt was to try and use solder to provide the body, but I couldn't get this to work well. Next up was some DAS clay, but I couldn't get it to stick to the wire very well in the small amounts I needed. My next thought was some plastic putty but on inspection my tube had dried up. I was about to give up at this point when I realised that the Woodland Scenics water effects gel is quite easy to shape and it holds the shape you put it in quite well. So a small amount was decanted onto scrap card and then a pin used to pick up small amounts to add to the body until I was happy with the shape. This was then left to dry out.

Once dry I sprayed on some grey primer to give the acrylic paints something to stick to, before painting the model with RailMatch weathered black which has a blue tint to it which matches the way feathers look quite well. The red wattle was then carefully picked on before the whole lot was sealed with a waft of satin varnish.

I'm pretty happy with the result, and in real life it looks better than the photo, mostly as it's only 7mm from beak to tail! Now I just have to decide where on the diorama to hide it to give anyone visiting ExpoNG something to look for.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Heather Has Now Flowered

Having come up with a second way of producing the heather flowers I've now applied this to the complete diorama which gives me this.

As you can easily see, in comparison to the heather on Bobby's photos mine is way too purple and in some lights almost blue. Now given the varying colours that heather does flower I could probably have got away with this but I decided I really did want to try and make it a little pinker.

The solution was another round of flowers again based on the Woodland Scenics purple flowering foliage. I took some of the purple flowers I'd mixed with the white weathering powder and shook them with some ground up pink pastel (from a metal tin of Reeves Greyhound pastels that are probably at least twice as old as me). A small amount of scenic glue was then dabbed onto the existing heather flowers before a small amount of the pinker flowers were added. The result is, I hope you will agree, much better.

And now that the heather is flowering the model is essentially finished. I just have to glue the bike in place and tidy up the base to improve the presentation. Both of these need to be done in the next few days before I pack the model ready for travelling down to ExpoNG on Friday. I'll post lots of photos of the finished model after the competition, so if you want to see it before then how about coming to say hello on Saturday -- you'll probably be able to find me at the Narrow Planet stand.

Friday, October 23, 2015

A Small Earthquake?

Reports have been coming in that a small earthquake struck just outside Glasgow this morning resulting in some minor earth movements.

Ever since I built the model of Bobby's bike, I've been annoyed by the fact that I hadn't quite got the ground around the abutment right, which meant that the embankment looked a lot taller compared to the bike than it should do. This morning I had another look and decided I just couldn't live with it any longer. Fortunately raising the ground level with a little DAS clay was easy as was blending it into the vegetation I'd already added. It's still not perfect but I think it looks a lot closer to reality now which is the main thing.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Calluna Reducere

So having decided that my approach to modelling heather didn't actually work I was pretty much resigned to the fact that I'd have to go without flowers on the heather, but then I had a flash of inspiration and decided it was worth having one more go.

When I first started thinking about modelling heather I'd looked at using the Woodland Scenics purple flowering foliage. I quickly ruled it out for two reasons. Firstly the strands that the flowers are attached to tend stick out at odd annoying angles no matter how much glue you use. More importantly while the purple looks bright and vibrant in a clump once teased out to cover a dark green bush it is actually quite dark. Obviously the first problem can be dealt with by removing the flowers from the strands but I still discounted it because of the colour.

My moment of inspiration came late on yesterday when I was using some dark earth weathering powder to slightly tone down a bright green grass tuft; if I can make a grass tuft darker using a weathering powder why couldn't I lighten the purple flowers in a similar way? So I took a small box, some white weathering powder, some purple flowers (removed from the strands) and made a martini!

Making heather was then a case of painting a small amount of glue onto a bush and sprinkling on some of the lightened flowers. I also added a few of the dark purple flowers to add a little variety. The excess was then blown of and voila we have heather. In real life it looks even better as the camera makes it look a lot bigger than it really is.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Bloomin' Heather!

Since the last post I've now added the two base layers of static grass to the entire diorama and started to add the heather bushes. The third layer of static grass will be added when the heather is in place to fill the grassy gaps. I'm going to hold off on showing the current states for now, but Bryony thought it looked so good that she wondered if I really should add the purple heather flowers as she was worried I'd ruin it. So that meant I had to expand on my previous small heather experiment to see how a bigger area would look.

Personally I think this looks horrible which is a shame as I thought the small experiment showed promise. So unless I come up with another approach for doing heather flowers in the next ten days then I'm going to leave them off and assume that the diorama represents a time of the year before the heather flowers. I guess you might call that cheating, but I'd prefer to leave the flowers off than completely ruin the model.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

26" Wheels

On one of my recent posts Iain commented that the mountain bike in the photos really helped to give a sense of scale to the bridge, showing just how small it really is. He was right of course, but unfortunately I couldn't find a decent 4mm scale mountain bike that I could buy. All the bikes I could find were both old fashioned and fairly chunky looking, and if I'm modelling the bridge as it appears now I needed something more modern looking. What I did have was a selection of different sized brass and nickel silver rod and an internet full of pictures of mountain bikes. I also discovered that most mountain bikes use 26" wheels making it easy to scale a side on photo to the right size.

I spent about an hour working out which sized rod to use for the different parts and how I'd construct a model and then about three hours slowly taping small bits of wire onto a wooden board while they were soldered together. The result is this.

Obviously it still needs some cleaning up and then painting (and possibly a chain adding) but I'm really happy with how it's turned out. It's my first real scratch built, completely soldered, model (at least I can't think of anything previously) and while it was a challenge to build the end result seems to have been worth while.

Given that I'm fairly happy with the size of the bike it does mean that on my model the ground doesn't rise quite as steeply from the stream as the bike rests lower down the embankment than in real life, but still I think it does it's job quite well.

Monday, October 12, 2015

The First Signs of Spring

Now that I'm happy with the concrete block the next stage is the greenery. I've started to work on this around the concrete block as this area is partly under the bridge and will be very difficult to get to, with the static grass tool, once the bridge is fixed in place. I'd done a number of small experiments before I started but this is how it looks at the moment; it's not a perfect match to the real location but I don't think it's too far off.

While it looks fairly simple it actually takes quite a while as there are a number of different stages involved. Firstly I applied some War World Scenics 1mm summer static grass. Once the glue had dried I dribbled on some more PVA and did a second application of the same grass to help build up a bit of depth. I then stuck a single mixed green Gamer's Grass tuft into the corner of the abutment. At this point it looked reasonable but I wanted a little more variation so I added some Woodland Scenics medium green static grass. I didn't add this in the normal way though, I used the "cigarette" approach described by Giles Favell in Model Railway Journal No. 238 to give clumps of grass.

Looking at the photo I could possibly do with reducing the size of the grass tuft slightly but in general I think that looks pretty good so I can now move on to adding grass to the rest of the diorama and fixing the bridge into place.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

A Second Concrete Block

I had a plan for today that involved starting on the greenery. Before that though I had to glue the concrete block into place and then blend it with the rest of the abutment. This was fairly straightforward. Unfortunately I took one look at it once completed and decided it had to go.

The problem was that I made the concrete block before I had more accurate measurements courtesy of Bobby's trip out to the bridge. This meant that the block was too narrow and when fitted in place there were two steps as the embankment narrowed rather than just one. Originally I thought I'd be able to love with it but once I could see everything blended it was just wrong so it had to go. Of course by this point the block was glued and plastered into place so took a bit of getting off.

I've now cast another, wider, block. In fact I've cast a block that is slightly wider than the real one so that it better matches the rest of the embankment and stonework that I'd already built.

Personally I think that looks like a fairly good representation, but it does mean that I still haven't done any greenery yet.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Convex Falls

So having added some surface texture to the water I decided that I still wasn't happy with the stream, specifically the small fall.

The main problem I had with the fall was that the water was following the rock surface, which doesn't happen in real life. In reality water erodes the rock from the top of the fall downwards resulting in the rock having a conave surface, i.e. it drops down before going outwards. Water flowing over the rock though forms a convex shape as the momentum carries it out before gravity pulls it down. With my water following the rock it didn't shoot out enough.

My first thought was to try and build up the water using the Woodland Scenics water effects but I decided I wanted something that naturally had some colour to it and the water effects dries clear. My solution was cotton wool.

So I took a small piece of a cotton wool ball and gently teased it out trying to keep the threads all running in one direction so that they could represent individual falls of water. I then gently tapped this to a bit of folded metal to make it easier to hold before gently wafting on some matt varnish. Once the varnish has dried the teased out cotton wool keeps it's shape remarkably well but still looks nothing like water so the last stage is to paint on a thin layer of the Woodland Scenics realistic water. Once this dries it goes clear leaving a thin film of water with white highlights inside it rather than being painted on the top. A small piece of this is then cut to shape and essentially glued in place using small amounts of water effects which then add more turbulence to blend in the edges.

I think this looks much better than the old falls, although in retrospect I should probably have used a couple of small strips to match the lip of the fall rather than shaping a single piece but I'm not going to try changing it now.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Textured Water

So having said in the previous post that I was going to leave the water alone, I've gone ahead and changed my mind. After more thought I decided that the smooth surface was just way too smooth and almost any texture would be an improvement. So I took the approach that worked best in my experiments (a cotton wool bud to apply the Woodland Scenics Water Effects) and attacked the stream.

Once the water effects had cured I re-applied the extra details on the fall etc. and dry brushed on some ivory paint to highlight certain areas. It's not perfect but I think it looks a lot better than the very smooth surface. Hopefully you all agree?

Sunday, October 4, 2015

White Water Effects

It's been two weeks now since I last posted about the small diorama I'm building for the Dave Brewer Challenge, and almost nothing has changed. The problem has been trying to figure out how to finish the water as I can't fix the bridge in place until that is done, and the rails need to be down before I can start adding ground cover.

My initial plan had been to add ripples across the whole surface of the stream to help show that the water was flowing across the diorama. Unfortunately I had no idea how to do this so I set about experimenting. I've now done four or five experiments and I'm not happy with any of the results. The problem is that at 4mm to the foot ripples need to be small so that they don't look like huge waves and I can't work out how to do this. I have figured out some nice approaches if I ever need a 7mm to the foot stream though so it's not been a complete waste of time.

What this means is that I'm going to leave most of the stream surface alone just adding small amounts of effects where it flows over rocks etc. to produce more white, turbulent water. I've approached this in small stages and currently this is what I have.

I think I probably need to add a little more to this but in principal it looks okay, especially as the stream surface isn't totally flat anyway. As you can see I've also painted the ground where grass and heather will appear. So the next step is a little more water effects before I get the bridge fully incorporated into the scene.