Thursday, 24 September 2009

Bellybuster Breakfast to Eat In

Some more musings about the recently completed diorama - as the café has become known as Truckstop, I think the name will probably stick. These are some of the scenic items used to detail the model. All are commercially available or made up from odds and ends in the bits box, and with a little work can make a big difference to a layout.

Flash! Gordon’s gotcha camera. A whitemetal two-part kit of the ever-popular HM Government roadside cash machine. Commonly found on long straight sections of road where a 30 mph limit appears out of nowhere, for no discernible reason. Greater minds than mine have suggested that this to collect revenue for the Government to boost their pensions in these hard times, but I’m not that cynical. On the A15 near Caenby there is a school within, oh, about 30 miles of such a camera, so obviously they’re there for safety reasons. Politics aside, these make a really nice scenic detail on a layout, and at around £3 are a £57 saving on the real thing. Available from Ten Commandments.

‘Work starts here in September until your bones are dust.’ This roadsign isn’t really prototypical, but it’s based on a real idea. The base is a Busch model of a German warning sign; I simply painted it black and made a typically British roadworks sign to warn of a lane closure ahead. The orange lights flash alternately, and the effect looks rather good. Simple to install and runs off 16 volt accessory power supply. I purchased mine from Contikits, who carry a good stock of Continental scenic accessories. To complete, simply add 18 miles of cones and an Audi TT forcing its way in at the last possible moment. But not in front of my X-reg Iveco that eats such impatient and impudent idiots long before a bellybuster breakfast.

Typically British outline streetlights have always been difficult to get hold of, but Express Models manufacture these authentic looking models that feature a bright white LED and run off 12 volt DC. The effect is rather good, the light is realistically cast downwards in a concentrated pool rather than all over the layout. Whilst difficult to see in daylight conditions, they come into their own in a nighttime scene. Personally, I think an orange LED would look better for these lights, but nevertheless, they make an interesting scenic addition to a layout.

Wheelie bins have become a subject in their own right with the fortnightly collections issue, and such publicity is a good selling tool for these whitemetal models from Ten Commandments. Painting depends on where you live, and I’m sure some Council Official will be happy to tell you the exact hue that they should be. They’ll also be happy to tell you what to put in them, what not to put in them, what day and time they must be put out for the vague possibility of a collection if you’re lucky, and what time of day they must be removed from the street – even if the collection lorry hasn’t been round yet, because it’s stuck in traffic caused by the congestion that has been created by all the bin lorries going out on the same day. I’ve personally found that wheelie bins are the ideal size for putting Council officials in, which solves a number of problems at the same time.

On which happy note I'll leave you for the moment as I have a long weekend to prepare for. More later!

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Windows Are Such a Pane

The biggest issue with the factory building that I’m labouring on has been the windows. I got close to a solution on Sunday when I painted the matt black panes with a spot of gloss varnish, and that did help a bit. Inspired by this, last night I decided to experiment further. Using an eye-dropper, each pane was filled with a good blob of gloss varnish. This dries in a concave manner that is remarkably good at reflecting the light from just about any viewing angle.

To my mind, this considerably improves the appearance of the model. With so much glass on show, the flat black finish that I originally applied looked just that – flat and black. The new reflective finish does at least give the impression of glazing and help create an illusion of depth. I’m quite pleased with this; in fact, as I have two more of these factory buildings lined up for painting, I may well demonstrate this simple technique at Peterborough Exhibition in October.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Story of a Plank - Part 6: Completion

The long running saga of ‘The Plank’ is now more or less complete, so I recently set up some photo sessions to illustrate the model. The idea behind The Plank was to build a model that could be used during exhibitions to discuss and demonstrate scenic modelling techniques; primarily, however, I required a diorama that could be used to display models for Ten Commandments products in photo sessions.

The diorama has been christened ‘Truckstop’ by virtue of the fact that it is essentially a model of a layby that runs adjacent to a railway line. In this layby is located a restaurant that specialises in catering to the logistics solutions supply chain facilitators, as management consultants in Audis like to term lorry drivers these days. Think I’m making this up? Take a look at the sides of lorries on your travels – trucks that carry chilled and frozen foods used to be called Fridges. No mistaking that, eh? Now, they’re called ‘Coolchain Solutions’. I used to drive a car-transporter; now it’s an automotive logistics solutions provider. And I’m, apparently, an automotive logistics solutions facilitator, because, as some spotty 12 year old oik in Human Resources (Personnel Dept) explained to me, 'I facilitate solutions to the automotive retail business.' Do what? I don’t facilitate anything; I drive a car transporter to a dodgy Arfur Daley dealer with a backstreet car dealership that’s always one step ahead of the VAT man, and tip a load of highly questionable cars that are sold on for cash only to Lithuanians who don’t ask any awkward questions about guarantees, mainly because they don’t speak English. That, predictably, went down like a lead balloon. Or should I say it descended in a manner more accustomed to a helium filled device that had been injected with quantities of a ferrous substance of higher density than the surrounding atmosphere. Two can play at that game - bloody upstarts.

But I digress, and return to the mainstream of this evening’s symposium. Since the last update, which seems to my mind to be eons ago, landscaping has progressed to provide plenty of bushes and vegetation growing wild; a detailed and illuminated café known simply as ‘Truckstop’ and based on one my favourite haunts on the A1 near Stamford. True to life, a Portaloo has also been erected here, and equally true to life, I don’t recommend paying it a visit …..

Accessories on the diorama include a much loved Gatso speed camera, a flashing warning sign advising of a lane closure ahead, working streetlights and various assorted details that I’ll cover in more detail later. The model has been built specifically to demonstrate products manufactured and sold by Ten Commandments, so naturally there is an emphasis in this direction. Nevertheless, the diorama shows how carefully sourced accessories and models can create realism on a layout and add some pleasing finishing touches. For anybody with a serious interest in scenic railway modelling, I can thoroughly recommend taking a visit to Iain Robinson’s modelling blog; there are some amazing scenes that are exquisitely detailed and provide great inspiration. Iain also features the work of other respected modellers, and illustrates his articles with superb photography.

The Café

This is simply a Knightwing portacabin kit, an ideal model to use as so many roadside diners originate from such buildings in reality. I added a detailed interior to add a bit of life, and illuminated the café with a couple of bulbs. The entrance step into the diner is provided by an old pallet, an arrangement we happily used at my old job for many years – without incident – until Health & Safety banned it on the grounds that it wasn’t secure enough, and we might slip on it, or the pallet might give way underneath us or something might … something might … something might …. Ah yes, the thoughts of those who never leave their air conditioned offices, and for whom the most dangerous object in their working life is the cuddly toy that sits on their computer terminal. We had to have a proper brick based step constructed with stone slabs on top, all cemented together at great expense – and the first time we had a touch of frost, one of the staff slipped and fell off it, breaking an ankle in the process due to the hard landing. I rest my case. Behind the café is small portable generator, used to power the cooking equipment. Another accessory is the extractor fan, located next to the entrance door above the window. This might seem to be a strange place to locate such a fan. Well, here’s the reason, and once again, I don’t come out of this too well…..

I installed lighting, as I mentioned – two simple bulbs. Then I wired it all up to test it, using my old Gaugemaster Combi. This allowed me to control the brightness of the interior, normally just a pleasant glow. For the photos, however, I wanted plenty of light to emphasize the detail, so I whacked the power up to full and went to set up my shot. I got more than I bargained for, because through the viewfinder I could see that I had in fact set fire to my new creation! What a total ... well - plank!!

The orange glow at the top of the right hand window set alarms bells ringing - literally! I was busy setting up this night time shot, and didn't realise that the glow was actually the overheated bulb beginning to melt into the plastic of the walls and roof. In fact it wasn't until the roof began to buckle and smoke a bit that I realised something was amiss. The driver and his mate who were at the cafe seem quite unpeturbed by events - doesn't matter if the cafe is on fire; we'll have take out.

The wall was a bit distorted, and the roof was a write-off. We’ll put that down to an ambitious chef doing a flambé, then. The roof was discarded as it was beyond salvation – thankfully, I had a spare kit handy for another project, so I borrowed the roof from that. The damaged wall needed covering up, hence the need for a fan to disguise the area. I think I just about got away with it – one of these days I’ll learn not to be so stupid ….. doh!

The portaloo also counts as part of the café, so I’ll include it here. It is the Ten Commandments etched brass kit, and makes up into this extremely realistic model. To add some authenticity, the interior was detailed with some left over newspapers; some to read and The Guardian to … well, do I have to draw a picture?! Relevant signage is also displayed, but true to form, the toilet roll is empty. Now the significance of The Guardian becomes apparent!

"I'd give it ten minutes if I were you, mate."

I'll cover other areas of Truckstop in due course.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Paint Your Wagon(load)

Work is progressing on the demonstration items that I mentioned last weekend, and here is an update after a Sunday afternoon spent pootling around.

The Plank

This is pretty much complete – photos taken this afternoon, and I’ll update during the week.

Factory Building

Well, it’s coming on, and that’s being nice. The paintwork was tidied up a bit, and then toned down with a black wash to start the weathering process. This is an old building, and needs to look as though it’s been around a bit. I’m not overly happy with the window frames; to improve things a bit, I painted each piece of glazing with a blob of gloss varnish to try and add a bit of shine to them and take away the matt black that gives the building a dead appearance. This has worked better in some panes than others, so I think a second go is required. Some subtle weathering is required, followed by signage and some detailing.

The Lorry

First job was to swap the black wheels for a spare set of red wheels, and make it look more sexy. Erm ... okay. Work then began on the trailer; the body is a flatbed with aluminium dropsides and such vehicles are often used in the construction industry – sometimes a HIAB crane is built onto the deck. The body was simply sprayed aluminium colour, leaving just the headboard to paint later on. For the floor, I used some of Blairline’s excellent laser etched wood decking. Blairline products are American, and not available for sale in the UK. Fortunately, I used to import some of their stock when I ran Signs of The Times, and ordered some of these before I ceased trading. Blairline have a good range of products, obviously aimed at the US market, but with some useful bits and bobs that British modellers can make good use of. Mail order is available direct from the States. The website greets you with the heading that Blairline is a Christ Centred Company, which is a tad unexpected on a modelling website to say the least. However, that's Americans for you. Notwithstanding the Bible bashing, the products are excellent, and the owner of the company, Dale Rush, is extremely helpful and friendly - nothing is too much trouble, and mail order service is second to none.

The wood looks incredibly realistic, and being self-adhesive makes installation a simple matter of cutting to size and placing into the body. I weathered it first, by attacking it with a knife blade, in order to represent gouges from loading and unloading, which believe me, isn’t a gentle process. Then an all over light black wash was followed by two more black and grey washes in areas that would receive the most bashing about. Finally, I ran the whole thing under the tap before sticking it out in the hot sun (yes, really – gorgeous afternoon in Lincolnshire) to dry out and weather naturally. It now looks faded and scuffed, which is what I was after.


The two loads consisted of a set of steel pipes, and a set of steel pipes with steel coils adjacent. Simple and straightforward enough, but once painted up, they didn’t look that good. To add realism, they needed to be rusting, and that can be a tricky job. Fortunately, ages ago I purchased a product called ‘Scenic Rust’ at an exhibition on impulse. As is so often the case, it got put in a box and forgotten about. This seemed to be an excellent time to experiment.

All of this comes in the Scenic Rust pack - details about these products at Deluxe Materials.

Scenic Rust is a small package, but with a lot of stuff in it. Basically, there is a tub of what looks like a pile of iron filings that we used to chase around school desks in physics lessons. I doubt if piles of mysterious grey powder are still allowed in schools; most of the teenagers would probably snort them rather than find magnetic north. Wotever.

"Looks like I picked the wrong day to stop sniffing rust." *

A white liquid substance that looks like diluted PVA is applied in equal proportion to the filings, and mixed into a liquid paste that turns blue. This is then painted onto the model and left to dry. After a couple of hours, the Scenic Rust Developer (blue watery liquid) is painted over the top and left to dry. The rust begins to appear after a couple of hours, but won’t be fully developed for around 8 hours – so you can watch rust form in front of your very eyes! It’s a very long, slow process, but preferable to X-Factor.

The finished result looks like this – but I have to say, it is very difficult to photograph convincingly. The pipes really look as though the rust is bubbling up, and the texture feels rough, just like the real thing. Whatever angle you view it from, it always look different as the light catches it, hence the photography problem. I’m delighted with the result on the pipes, and set to work on the pipes / coils load later in the day.

The second load, about 3 hours into drying.

* If you don't get this line, watch Airplane!

Monday, 14 September 2009

Gearing Up

I mentioned a couple of posts ago that I’m ratcheting up the modelling as the season approaches. Work is progressing on the Ten Commandments factory unit that I received from Dave a couple of weeks ago, while I have also started work on the two lorryloads that accompanied the building. If I have lorryloads I need - yes, you’re way ahead of me again - a lorry. Fortunately I have a spare Volvo FH artic with a dropside trailer doing nothing, so that can form part of this project. Here is progress to date:

The truck appears ‘as is’ as work hasn’t begun yet. The two loads are simple one-piece castings; one is a stack of steel pipes and the other steel pipes plus stacks of steel coil. For a one-piece plaster cast moulding, they are reasonably good and look the part. I gave both loads an all over coat of Citadel Miniatures ‘Boltgun Metal’ grey, an excellent colour that really looks the part representing unpainted steel. Next stage is to detail and weather these loads to make them look more realistic.

At the rear of this collection is one of the factory units. It has the basic colours applied, but needs tidying up to make it look halfway decent. The windows and frames were a nightmare; I really do not like a one piece casting for buildings and would prefer a kit that can be made up more convincingly. That said, this could still be made into a nice model with a bit of work.

I actually started with the windows and am working out! The whole building was sprayed with Halfords Black Primer to provide the undercoat as well as the basis for the glazing. For the basic brickwork I used Citadel Miniatures ’Terracotta’, which is one of the most convincing shades of red brick that I’ve come across. Windowsills and lintels were painted pale grey, and window frames in white, while the roller shutter door is in Boltgun Metal again. I was mildly surprised to see that a vintage building such as this features a roller shutter door rather than wooden barn doors for the loading bay. This rather dates the building to one that was built probably during the Victorian era, but modernised from the 1970’s onwards.

I got all the basic colours done, and was debating whether to tackle the awful window frames when Radio 2 took the decision out of my hands! On Sunday evening, an Abba concert was playing at Hyde Park, hosted by Chris Evans and featuring an interesting line up. So, to the strains of Does Your Mother Know, Waterloo and the incomparable Kylie blasting out Super Trouper for all she’s worth, the window frames got painted!

At this stage, the building is not much to look at. I wasn’t going to post this picture, but decided that if I did, it would motivate me to improve it and create a reasonable finished product.

I hope!

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Thomas to The Rescue

Saturday morning dawned with a swirling mist around Grantham. Fantastic – I was off to the Nene Valley Railway again, and didn’t really need this. But not to worry, ten miles down the road the morning sun was burning the mist away to reveal a beautiful cloudless and sunny sky. Photographic conditions were perfect. I was heading to the NVR as it was their big gala day, entitled simply ‘1968’. The idea was that the railway would be celebrating the final year of steam traction as diesels took hold, so a varied day was on offer. In addition to an extensive passenger service, they’d also be running the Royal Mail TPO set, plus demonstration freight trains. It was the latter that piqued my interest, as I needed some footage of old style freight trains for another filming project. Combined with everything else, it promised to be a good day.

This notion ended on arrival at Wansford Station, where a small notice over the gala posters explained that due to the non-availability of the visiting locos, the event was off until October. Instead, there would be the usual off peak one-train-in-steam service. Oh, brilliant. This news had certainly broken very late in the day, as I’d been on their website quite recently. I was now in a quandary - what to do? Well, it was a lovely day; I had all my stuff and pack-up with me, and the bike was in the car ready for the Ferry Meadows and Peterborough filming sessions. Therefore, I could do some cycling around the Country Park, and photograph the odd train as it went by.

So off I went to Ferry Hill to park up and take to my two wheels. It really was a great day for cycling, and I rode up and down seeking out potential locations for a future visit. I also spent some time around Overton Lake, home of Poshboatz, and took some early morning pictures as the lake came to life. At Peterborough Nene Valley station, the wagons were parked up, so I filmed them with a view to working them into the project one way or another.

I stuck around the park for the first two runs, these featured regular but very photogenic 73050 City of Peterborough working the crimson and cream Mk 1 set. Then I decided to head back to Wansford, as I could do with a nice station arrival piece of film; something I’ve not yet managed to do. On arrival at Wansford I was able to get some great footage of 73050 running round the stock in quite a complex move that involved Thomas the Tank Engine working the Wansford to Yarwell section of the line and back.

73050 duly left for Peterborough once again, and I was left with two hours to fill. How to occupy myself became abundantly clear, when someone high up (even higher than Gordon Brown) decided that Thomas could do a bit of shunting around Wansford. An old oil tanker was detached from a freight train, carted off somewhere and dumped. Then Thomas coupled up to Deltic D9009 Alycidon, and shunted it from one depot road to another in a series of interesting moves that looked good on film – and the sight of diddy Thomas dragging a Deltic round looked pretty incongruous, I have to say! Then the tanker was returned to the siding from whence it came. The full story about Thomas's shunting day will be told in my other blog in a different style.

Thomas had his big face on throughout the day, of course, but by always filming bunker first, I was able to get plenty of seemingly industrial steam age shunting shots that actually suit my purpose just as well, if not better, than the planned freight trains. I was glad I’d decided to stay and make a day of it!

I’d planned to capture the arrival of the next passenger train and then go, but with a cloudless sky it seemed a waste, so in the event I stayed for every service – hiking off down the Nene Way to come across this particular spot where I took a nice piece of film as the train ran by.

All in all, it was a great day, and despite my initial disappointment, it turned out to exceed my expectations from the gala itself in some respects. Not only do I have some industrial freight shots, I have the bonus of City of Peterborough from some lovely unspoilt lineside locations, and the station arrival shot. And not to mention all the exercise from walking and cycling.

Now, in the past, I may have mentioned the odd mild criticism about the use of Thomas on non-kiddy days. So it’s only to fair to redress the balance on this occasion, seeing as it was Thomas who ..... I can hardly get the words out … saved the day.


Sunday, 6 September 2009

Crafty Competition Results

The results from the Crafty Computer Paper competition are in, and I’m pleased to say that I managed to achieve a ‘Highly Commended’ result for my submission to the advanced section. Two of my creations are featured on their website within the video, the 1:87 Scania rigid with HIAB that I finished in the livery of a fictional builder's merchant - 'Bricking It'. The vehicle was converted to right-hand drive, detailed and a load of bricks finished the model off.

The truck is seen here at Valkova Road as it makes slow progress down the busy High Street. The driver will later be pulled over for not securing the HIAB jib securely before setting off - it must have been like this all day at the exhibition, but I never noticed at the time!

The second vehicle was the Geo Adams Actros fridge artic that featured in my own article about using Crafty products.

Both vehicles are destined to appear at the Peterborough model railway exhibition in October, where I will be demonstrating how to use the decals, as well undertaking a variety of demos for Ten Commandments products on the Saturday. Jobs are stacking up for this exhibition; the demo unit 'The Plank' is making slow progress, whilst I have started painting the old style factory units that I received last week. These are incredibly fiddly, I have to say. I much prefer to create buildings from kits or plain materials, as this enables individual items such as doors and window frames to be painted prior to fitting - all these individual panes of glass featured on these models have not generated an awful lot of enthusiasm so far. Talk about going square eyed!

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