Last Saturday, myself and a small group from the Leamington & Warwick Model Railway Society took a trip up north to see Pete Waterman's model of our local station (Leamington Spa, obviously). You have probably seen photos of this in some of the magazines over the last few months and very impressive it is too.
It's very weird looking at the rail bridge you drove under a few hours earlier, reproduced in 7mm:1 foot scale yet that's one of the first things I saw. 6 years into the project, the local area is very recognisable to us Leamingtonians. The complicated rail bridge you can see in the photo is at the bottom of Bath Street and the view is one I see (take a look at the real thing in Google Streetview) a lot while waiting for a post pub bus...
The layout is set in the early 1950's yet very little of the town has changed today. OK, so Avenue Road station no longer exists and it's corresponding bridge (behind this one) is long gone but apart from a single building beside some advertising hoardings, it all looks pretty much the same. An aerial photo confirms this. Obviously this makes measuring up a whole lot easier for the builders. That's a good thing really as they haven't been able to locate any plans for the current station despite Pete being friends with the current chairman of Network Rail !
The building construction is interesting. In an effort to avoid the warping that can occur in insufficiently braced models all are based on a perspex shell (the green stuff in the picture) with the surface material applied to this. As well as strengthening up the model it also results in pre-glazed windows.
I'll admit to not running any trains myself. Our visit was shared with some guys from Manchester club and they seemed keener to get some controller time which was great - no responsibility for 48 wagon trains yet plenty of watching them go by.There were even some nice sound effects coming from a diesel (Class 44 I think, one with a pointy nose that isn't a 37. Or Deltic.) as well as a pannier (different effects obviously). I'm sure the layout can be run very realistically to a proper timetable but to be honest we weren't there for a serious session. Besides, who is going to get tired of full length trains working Hatton Bank ?
The quality of modelling is very high. Pete gave us a quick demo showing how he paints teak coaches. I've read various techniques to reproduce this finish and all seem like a lot of hard work. This simply involved a spray of a suitable (from the Just Like the Real thing range obviously) undercoat followed by careful application of Ronseal teak stain. The trick is not to mix it fully and "pull" the stain as you apply it. This is exactly what you don't want to do when painting normally but this time it causes the pigment and shellac to separate slightly resulting in a very effective wood grain./ A second coat builds this up and if you want darker wood, keep doing it. When the finish is dry, the coach is lined, varnished and then weathered using powders.
Personally I preferred the demo of modifying the frames of an express locomotive with a Dremel and burr to stop the wheels shorting against the, Apparently the loco was built from an early JLTRT kit where the frames are a little too scale. A bit of violent modification saw the model traversing tight crossovers without upsetting the DCC though.
I really look forward to seeing progress in the future. The current station building is still to come as is quite a lot of detail. Once complete (if any layout this size can be complete) it's going to worth seeing. Good fun too.