Well, now that I’ve got my holiday sorted out and all the photos blogged, uploaded, sorted and filed, I think it’s time to get back a bit of modelling. I pottered about a bit yesterday with The Plank, and have got the road sorted and the railway started. This is where I’m at:
Starting with the road, previously I’d got as far as laying and painting the surface. This was too pale and clean to create the right look, so I gave the entire surface three colour washes to tone it down a bit. I simply used three very watered down coats of black paint to achieve this effect, and I’m pleased with the results. It’s a common misconception that roads are black – this only occurs when the tarmac is fresh and recently laid, but roads weather and lighten very quickly, and those that have not been treated for years on end become a very pale grey indeed.
In addition to the general weathering, I also placed some splodges onto the road. This wasn’t a case of being careless, well, not all of them at any rate. As this model is depicting a layby, it is common for vehicles to drip oil and fluids onto the road surface, particularly lorries, and especially the lorries at my place of work that are maintained by our alleged, but totally incompetent ‘service provider’ who wouldn’t recognise a blocked filter if it hit him in the face. No, it’s not nice, but that’s just the way it is.
As with the road surface, these oil spills will also weather and fade over time, with only the most recent drips showing as nearly black, with a slightly glossy sheen to them. This photo shows a typically weathered layby:
The next stage was to add in the drains and manholes. I used the etched brass versions from Ten Commandments, which I painted dark grey. They should fit flush with the road surface, unless you’re modelling Grantham town centre, in which case they should sit proud of the pitted road surface in order to gouge great lumps out of your tyres. The Council absolve themselves of any responsibility by saying that because they reduced bin collections to fortnightly, there are now less heavy lorries churning up the roads and causing the manholes to stick out of the road. So it’s our fault – well, as long as we’re clear about that. The problem can be cured, but it would mean a 225% increase in Councillors expenses as they would need to jet off en-masse to Barbados for a Road Surface Strategy & Solutions Conference.
But I digress. To make the drains sit at the correct height, simply insert some spacers – I used offcuts of balsa, and painted them black to create an impression of depth when looking down the drains. Believe me, at every exhibition I’ve been to, there is always someone who will make a point of looking down drains. They must lead full and exciting lives.
This now completes the basics of the road surface, so while it all dried, I began on the joy of tracklaying. As this is just a static diorama, I don’t have to worry about any of the usual tracklaying headaches; all I’m after here is the appearance. Two lengths of spare Peco flexitrack did the job, no need for wiring or anything else. I painted the sides of the rails a weathered rust; this is a long and laborious job but absolutely essential. The base is more cork mat cut to shape, glued into position and painted dark grey in order to provide a good foundation for the track.
The next stage is an important one – if you are modelling MAS then cable trunking will be required, and must be fitted prior to ballasting in order to look right. It can be retrofitted, as members of Perth Model Railway Club found out on their excellent Almond Bridge layout, but it’s a long and boring job chipping away at all the ballast in order to lay the trunking before replacing the ballast. They did it, but I understand that they drank the bar dry afterwards, and bear in mind we’re talking about Scotland here.
Cable trunking can be scratch built from Evergreen Strip Styrene, which is an excellent product that I use for all sorts of projects. Modellers Mate, Inter City Models and Modelex stock the full range to name but three – other suppliers can be found at certain shows. In this case, however, I’m taking the easy way out and using Ten Commandments cable trunking, as this diorama is being built to demonstrate their products at exhibitions.
Packs come in Four-Foot or Ten Foot versions, with various extra junction boxes. A nice feature is that a number of covers have been removed to expose the wires underneath, as can be seen frequently in real life. Spare covers are included in the pack, so that they can be realistically placed by the lineside during, or after, some PW work.
Real cable trunking is made from concrete sections, for modelling purposes I simply gave it all a coat of grey paint, as most of it will be hidden with ballast, and the surface will receive weathering once the track is complete. I laid the cable trunking snug up to the cork mat; this means it runs exactly parallel to the railway, which looks good. The trunking is made of a bendy plastic, so it follows the contours of the trackbed very nicely, and can be glued into position with PVA adhesive. Naturally my task was made simpler because I only have one running line, and things get considerably more complicated at junctions, yards and stations. The Ten Commandments cable trunking pack includes various T-junctions and 90° turns for these areas, and I can demonstrate this on a mock up I created for the trade stand a while ago:
This example shows how the cable trunking crosses the tracks – this would be required if the Power Box that controlled the signals was located on the other side of the permanent way. The cables can be made to ‘turn the corner’ with a 90° block, and then cross under the tracks in one of the distinctive orange tubes that protect the wires from damage. For this use a narrow drinking straw, or any suitable piece of narrow tube in your bits box. I think that this set-up is pretty much correct, if not, I’m sure James at Eastmoor can put me right! It is also useful to use a T-Junction piece to feed cables into lineside relay cabinets, a feature often overlooked during track laying. I have designed one of these into the diorama.
I’m leaving all that to settle, the next job is ballasting – oh, I can hardly contain myself!