Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Tidy up the sides


This is one of those quick jobs that makes much more of a difference than I had expected - covering the sides of the hill with some nice, tidy plywood. 

In our stock of wood is some LitePly about 3mm thick. More expensive than normal ply, it has the advantage of being cutable with a heavy craft knife. Since I wanted the top to follow the contour of the hill, this seemed worth it. Besides, I wasn't looking at big chunks of the stuff - and anyway, there's no point in buying these materials if you keep saving them "for a special job". 

Anyway, the hill had to be trimmed back to allow the ply to be fitted, but I clamped it in place with a wodge of filler behind it and then tidied up the top (yes, I should have cone this before working on the mud) for a neat job. 

It looks stupidly good. Eventually, I'll paint it grey. Matching the colour of the rest of the boards won't happen so a contrast will look a lot better. 

As well as looking good, the ply will protect the polystyrene from knocks as the model is moved around in the future - another win!

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Building a hill for a model railway

 A quick step-by-step guide showing how I made a hill on the corner of my Selly Oak project. 

The basis of the hill is expanded polystyrene blocks fixed together with PVA glue and then carved to shape. Ideally, you do this with a hot wire cutter, but a less smelly, if considerably messier, method is to use a bread knife. 

To give the hill a hard shell, pieces of plaster impregnated bandage, often sold under the trade name Mod-Roc, are dipped in water and then laid on the hill. By overlapping them and then smearing around the wet plaster with your fingers (another messy job) the whole hill is covered and left to dry overnight. 

I like quite a thick "crust" on my hills and while I could achieve this with extra layers of the plaster bandage, using some DIY store wall filler is cheaper. Apply it with a palette knife or one of these spatulas used for icing cakes. Wet the tool as you work, it makes the filler go on a lot smoother. 

Once the hill is covered to 2-3mm, leave it to dry overnight. 

You might be better at plastering than I am, but generally, the surface needs sanding to get it smooth. 

We're not looking for perfection, just to take the worst lumps and bumps out of the surface. Imagine you are a scale person standing on it and then think about a real hill. They might have the odd crevasse or cliff edge, but generally the land is smooth thanks to years of weather and erosion. 

This is another messy job. Have a vacuum cleaner to hand and use it constantly. You really don't want this stuff in your pointwork. 

Unless you are modelling s now scene, your ground needs to be mud coloured. I use emulsion paint to give me a basic shade. If you mixed your own filler for the previous step, it's not a bad idea to put a dollop of it in there, but I cheat with ready-mix for time and mess reasons. 

Finally, it's time for greenery. This is the first coat of static grass. I'm just giving it a base colour as the greenery will be more detailed with extra layers of grass and some scatter to replicate weeds. However, this makes a big change to the look of a layout, so even if the detailing is a way off, it's worth doing to show progress and inspire you to carry on. 

I hope this quick guide has helped. Don't forget if you want to know more, you can always Ask Phil.

Monday, January 25, 2021

Shops'n'steampunk in The Collector

Two new projects of mine appear in the winter 2021 issue of the Hornby Collectors Club house magazine The Collector

It's always interesting and challenging working out what to build for a workshop feature in a publication that you wouldn't think was as popular with people who make things as mainstream magazine. The main criteria is, obviously, that the project is based around a Hornby model. They normally supply the main item I ask for. 

Subject is usually a matter of discussion between me and editor Paul. He's happy to take my ideas, but occasionally chucks something at me - and that's how the first project came about. It's a good idea as he gets to assemble a varied magazine since I can be let lose on something he feels till work for the readership. 

Project number one is a pair of shops. 

Starting with a couple of Skaledale models, I've backdated them to work on a steam age layout. In the main this is getting rid of the white window frames, adding a canopy and most importantly, changing the signage. 

Finding suitable signs is difficult. These came from a Howard Scenics pack which look like they were hand painted. Producing your own is, IMHO, incredibly difficult. Yes, you can print some on the computer, but they always look too modern to my eye. I'm sure a proper graphic designer could do it, but that's not me. 

Project two was my idea. 

I've been keen to have a go at some Steampunk for a while now. Trouble is, while it sounds easy, coming up with a suitable idea is a lot harder, and realising it harder still. 

What we need is something Victorian but with modern hints. I've used the Wills bridge kit for a turntable and powered it with the bits from an Airfix Rocket plastic kit. This, and the engine shed kit, have been radically reworked. 

I'd like to go further with this - and maybe will do one day. I'm pleased with the result though, and all the techniques used are useful to normal modellers too. 

The other highlight in this issue are the models made for the 100mm challenge. Loads of them (I'm obviously wrong about the lack of modellers among the readership) and some really superb modelling from all age groups. Judging by the numbers and quality in the under 16 category, the hobby isn't as poorly as many would like to believe it to be. 

Hornby Collectors Club.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Video: Hattons Genesis coaches


Another new box of goodies on the workbench for me to play around with. This time it's the pre-production Hattons generic pre-grouping coaches. Sadly, there was some miscommunication and it's the decorated samples that will arrive in February, not the production models. Those are hitting the shops in Q2 2021.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Saturday Film Club: What's in a 1972 dustcart?


 Thanks to my collegue, Howard Smith, for spotting this. An interesting 10 minute documentary on waste disposal with some terrific 1970s vehicles and even railway interest right at the end. 

I guess the London waste plan must have been state-of-the-art at the time. It's certainly clean enough to have hardly seen any use. Not sure I fancy being a traffic controller there. The days must have been very long...