Tuesday 31 October 2017

A Foreign Layout!

Regular followers of this blog know that I tend to concentrate on backwaters - frequently in the west of England. As a nice change a couple of weeks ago I picked up a part complete project, the owner wanting me to add scenery and ground texture to his German layout. 20 hours work has produced the below.... shortly before we loaded up the car for its return journey we snapped a few photos 'under the lights'.

 It's based on a southern German pre-ware scenario in an area known for its sandy limestone soil. It was important too keep the colouring light.
 Arriving at the end of the line..
 Coaling up...
 A wide open feeling has been achieved within a relatively small foot print. Sometimes it's good not to cram too much in..
You can find out more about this layout here http://timhalesblog.blogspot.co.uk/
Drop me a line if you have a stalled project or simply don't have time to complete a project.

Wednesday 11 October 2017


Click to enlarge
The problem with with small shelf type layouts can be achieving a believable looking depth. Fountain Colliery is only 1 foot  / 30cm deep, so I've been adding some trees along the front to break up the open vista. The Forest of Dean, where this little layout is supposed to be, is obviously a rather woody place, so I need to add as many trees as possible.

Positioning the trees will take a little trail and error, they need to look natural position wise and not look too contrived like a parkland or ornamental garden. I also need to arrange them so they don't get in the way of operation. For the time being, none of the trees will be permanently fixed down as I access their position and practicality.

As recommended in the excellent Albion Yard Blog I've been trying out these Woodland Scenics bendy tree armatures as a basis for tree production. Of course I could wind my own from wire and plaster, but as is frequently the case, time is not always in my side. The tree below taking around 30 minutes from bending the tree to shape, spraying a dull grey ish colour and adding my own foliage dressing from flock coated micro fibre. They have the bonus of being very strong too, always as advantage when close to the edge of a baseboard.
Click to enlarge

Thursday 5 October 2017

Roger Sprocket

Click or tap to enlarge

The works train stops at the works halt to pick up Roger Sprocket - a tiresome man, who for all of his career has worked in the MOD film unit labs. His particular job is to manually check and count the number of sprocket holes that run down either side of 100 ft and 400 ft rolls 35mm motion picture film. He has a passing interest in railways, but his real passion is to hang around at bus stations wearing nothing but a dirty gabardine rain coat whilst shouting out in his irritating nasal
voice "hellllloooo layyyyydeees".

Meet Roger Sprocket and many others no doubt, at Brew Street & Fountain Colliery's first outing - Saturday 4 November, 2017 Wycrail

Click to enlarge

Sunday 1 October 2017

Coffee Stirrers

Toy trains don't have to be an expensive hobby, disposable coffee stirrer are a great source of cheap timber, or possibly free if you have a naughty streak (I'll leave that bit to your imagination, I don't want a global tax avoiding coffee shop knocking on my door).

So, a couple of hours messing about with coffee stirrers, PVA glue and static grass - out pops a rather rustic works halt, all rather Tollesbury Light Railway maybe?

I might add a little fence/barrier along the nearest edge to stop those entering the 2018 Darwin Awards from exiting the train, flying across the rather narrow platform and breaking themselves on the track nearest.

Operationally this will add a little more scope between the coal and timber (pit props with Scandinian pine) workings to and from Fountain Colliery on the next module down. Looking at that train, the brake van would have to have done a lot of work, the engine being steam brake only.

Click on the photos above and below for a bigger view...

Saturday 30 September 2017

Hornby J15 - Sunday Afternoon Grub Up

As always, click on the fuzzy photo above for a bigger view - a really big view in fact because I'm too lazy to resize the original file.

I've had this little loco sitting in a box for some time, one of the reasons being that I tend to model the former Western Region of British Railways. This delightful little engine was very much an animal of the former Great Eastern Railway which served Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk.

Brew Street's recent extension has sort of given it an East Anglian backwater feel, so ideal for such a little loco which to my eyes has a very high cute factor, rather like that of a dopey puppy with big eyes. The heavily tweeked Metcalfe Factory building in the background of the above photo with the railway running through it, is a little like the entrance to Snape Wharf in Suffolk too.

I've not weathered up a loco for a while, having been building layouts, so this made a nice little Sunday afternoon project. I also added scale couplings, a crew, real coal and some of the iron mongery used by the hard working fireman. The particular loco was a goods only engine, hence 3 links rather than the more common screw type.

The result here took around 4 hours sitting outside in the late summer/early autumn sun with a nice cold beer.

I brush weather these days, preferring the slightly more organic look it gives over airbrush, feeling that a lot of airbrushed weathering can look very similar and sterile. I've never been one to follow the pack though, preferring to make my own look rather than generic - for good or bad.

I'm very keen on interior matt emulsion match pots, if only to wind up the overly serious element of the hobby who insist on bespoke pigments hand made by 129 year old hobbits in some hidden cave in a very remote part of Wales (only available through a tiny classified ad in the MRJ). I digress, but do check out those miserable baby poo browns and manic depressive greys - do people really decorate with those? Being an old fart, I'm still a great fan Humbrol or Revell enamel - again, various dull and depressing colours and 'metal coat' for that oily sheen - a must have, learnt from the military kids. Everything is finally finished off with a spray of Tamiya Matt - another must have.

I'm taking Brew Street and Fountain Colliery (joined at the hip, East Anglia meets Forest of Dean) to Wycrail on Saturday 4th of November should anybody wish to poke some fun at me and the trainsets.

Thursday 28 September 2017

Going Commercial

I regularly get requests as to whether I can undertake model making commissions .... so, with a deep breath I have decided to take on a limited amount of work.

You might have that stalled project that needs finishing off, or you you may simply have a model railway* that needs a refresh. Maybe you have some kits to complete or some buildings that are needed on your layout, etc etc....

I'm based in the Surrey area of the UK

See the photo on the right for my contact details

* Please note that I can only undertake third party location work in and around the south east. Smaller layouts, I will work on in my own workshop - the layout owner will be responsible for delivery and collection.

Thursday 21 September 2017

Brew Street Update

Brew Street update. Starting to look like a layout with the J15 looking very at home here. It's ex-box, so will need renumbering and grubbing up a little.

Nothing is fixed down, so apologies for the wonky bits.

Could this be Somewhere on the Suffolk coast?

Monochrome edit to hide the bright orange clay. I'll paint it shortly. Work in progress, with much still to do...

Tuesday 12 September 2017

Point of No Return

Extending Brew Street from its original 2 x 1 feet to a whopping 4 x 1 - I think I've reached the point of no return.

In its original format, I could never see me taking it to a show. I'd have been pulling my own teeth out after 15 mins. I might last up to an hour after the extension. Operation isn't really my thing. If I didn't do the odd show I wouldn't even wire them up. 😱

The right hand side will feature a larger canal wharf with a few boats exiting through a heavily embellished Metcalfe factory entrance. Sort of Snape Quay/malting like. Just had to be done with that arch!

I was asked to do the Metcalfe factory for a magazine feature, but it's silly it gathering dust with no home. The original concept of Brew Street was designed to use spare buildings and other clutter up, whilst having a bit of freelance fun, so this will carry that on.

I need to finish this within 4 weeks to make way for commercial stuff. All going well I'll be linking it to Fountain Colliery at Wycrail first Saturday of November.

I'm using baseboard kits from www.timhorn.co.uk

Thursday 7 September 2017

Extending Brew Street

A little messing about to possibly extend Brew Street. And in anticipation I've ordered another diorama case from www.timhorn.co.uk to match Brew Street's, however a little carpentry will be required to turn it in to one big case - a mammoth 4 x 1 feet in total!

Brew Street, built last Autumn over 2 weeks was a spontaneous project using up spare bits and bobs, so this carries on that theme. In the past I've built quite a few serious projects (handmade everything including track), but from time to time it's fun to do a quickie.

When planning layouts I like to do mock ups using structures and templates, a pleasing composition is important to me, especially due to the fact that photography plays an important roll in displaying and sharing the layout to a wider audience. I'm not a huge fan of exhibiting, more often than not I'm performing with my band at weekends (my other interest).

I have to get this one finished by mid October to make way from some new commercial modelling projects, a business area I'm slowly moving in to as part of a lifestyle change away from the rat race. The book is filling up.

Sunday 3 September 2017

60 Years Ago

60 years ago today, Johnson 1P No. 58086 departs Combwich through an early morning late summer mist. This loco sadly was withdrawn just 2 years later. What a shame none survived in to preservation.

The model is one of the very few brass kits I've built, this one being by the Craftsman range. It has January 1982 scratched on to the underside.

I believe one of the ready to run manufacturers has one planned for the future, which will no doubt make this model look rather crude. This will run better though, I had the chassis commercially rebuilt for me by a 'man who can' a few years ago, and now it runs a dream all day long.

Click on the above photo for a bigger version.

Saturday 2 September 2017

Working in Card

I've been asked to 'enhance' a Metcalfe printed card kit. Mostly involves adding card overlays to formerly printed detail along with a slap of paint. I hold my hand up to the quoins not being quite right. The water tower and chimney buildings have yet to be treated, hopefully a job for this weekend.
The 'olive', on the top of the tower will be replaced with a weather vane when I source or fabricate one.

Here's the very well designed kit https://www.metcalfemodels.com/product/po284-00-h0-boilerhouse-factory-entrance/

Click on the photos above and below for a much bigger version...

Saturday 22 July 2017

Cheap Tip!

Click to enlarge
Here's a cheap trick for fans of the 3 foot rule (don't get too close basically)....

Some budget yard lamps, barbecue skewer, bent nail, a slice of plastic tube, splash of paint, job done. They look fine from normal viewing distance. You won't break them when you collide with them, if anything you'll draw blood. Of course they don't work, but hey, the sun is out, so they wouldn't be lit.

Knocked up 9 in around an hour (from 3 skewers chopped in to 3). Cost maybe around 15p in total. Bish bash bosh!

An old (or new, if you're posh) bamboo blind can make a good source of 'timber' too. This hobby does not need to be expensive.
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Wednesday 17 May 2017

Smartphone experiment

iPhone 7 photo as shot, note bleached highlights and clogged out shadows. Click for a bigger view
Love them or hate them, for mobile phones are very much part of every day life. For me it's my calendar, diary, sat nav, point of contact, and these days increasingly my out and about camera, unless I'm doing a proper photoshoot. Occasionally, very occasionally I use it as a telephone as well!
An edited shot, adjusting shadow and highlight detail, as well as rewriting the white balance. Click for a bigger view
Adobe produce their well known photo editor Lightroom for mobile devices as a free app. There are many good editors out there like Google's rather excellent Snapseed, but Lightroom allows you to shoot in RAW/DNG format by opening up the phone's camera in the app and then selecting the RAW option. 

Enthusiastic photographers will know that shooting RAW has many advantages over in-camera JPEG, with one of the best being far more control over highlights, shadows, incorrect exposure, noise, white balance after shooting on the comfort of your home. The downside of shooting RAW/DNG is that the files are far bigger - much bigger!

Mobile phones tend not to give great results under artificial or low light, with colours being frequently off or muddy. So as a test, I thought I'd see how much better results could be using the Lightroom app to shoot a few snaps of one of my layouts, and then exporting the DNG/RAW file to Photoshop on my laptop to extract what I could out of the mobile phone images (an iPhone 7 in this case). I could of course edit a traditionally shot with the smart phone camera JPEG, but adjustment, especially white balance is very limited. Editing the RAW/DNG file allows far more control in this respect because you are accessing the original data before it's turned in to a JPEG in your phone which loses much of the data.

Okay, I'm blabbering and running out of time, I'll do a better feature on this if interest suffices!

Monday 1 May 2017

Exit Right - Fountain Colliery Update

Yesterday I dedicated time to sorting out the right hand side where trains exit stage. Disappearing roads in to a backscene are a problem, whist they can look ok to the eye, they rarely work in photographs. With the day job snapping model railways for the popular press, I encounter this frequently, so wished to avoid this with my own modelling which is more likely to be seen online than at shows (One or two shows for me a year are quite enough).

As a workaround, my bits and bobs box had a nice set of gates crying out to be used (I think there were off some long gone Bachmann ready to plonk buildings). So, with those in place, I wonder what is beyond those forbidding gates? Some Adams Family type lair? The local inbred gentry along the lines of Sir Henry at Rawlinson End? A top secret cult? RMweb? A government covert operations centre? I imagine we'll never know. I'm open to suggestions of course...

The warning signs are reused from old old layout that lost its crossing. They're scratch from some bits of plastic, a splash of paint and a computer printed sign.

The little pre war car is from a white metal Springside kit made many years ago. Austin 7s were tiny little cars, it looks under scale, but it is in fact quite right. In the UK, pre-war cars were still quite a feature right through to the 1960's, we did a lot more make do and mend in those days.

Sunday 30 April 2017

Fountain Colliery - housebound

This weekend's progress. I've been stuck at home with Norovirus (probably picked up at some music jam I imagine - my other interest), so with certain facilities being nearby an ideal excuse for a bit of Model making. These latest grabs give an idea of how it's all going.

I need to make more tress mostly, the collieries in the Forest of Dean really merged with nature. Last night I did the pond/bog in the foreground. I'm hoping Saffy the cat hasn't been on it overnight, it's a bit sticky with a thin layer of gloss. I also need ferns, dozens and dozens of them.

I've 6 or so weeks to go to the exhibition debut at The Warminster Expo on Saturday 17 June, so hopefully plenty of time to add lots of detail. I'll be next to Paul Marshall Potter of Albion Yard fame with his delightful 'Shelfie', so expect us to form the naughty corner.

Tuesday 25 April 2017

Fountain Colliery! We Have a Name!

I've finally a name for my Forest of Dean project - Fountain Colliery - it sort of sounds 'Forest of Deany', probably because of a well known pub in Parkend that the real trains would rumble past with their loads of free mined coal or aggregate.

I've the Warminster Show booked for the 17th of June, so thought it only fair to give the punters a name. The hitherto 'Forest of Dean Project' not really running off the tongue.

So here goes, a very concise run through of what's been going on over the last few weeks. As usual click on the images for a bigger view.

Ballasting - starting with regular sand fixed in to place with diluted PVA 'in the time honoured way*' (*sounds better is you say it with a squeaky voice for that 'old school' tweed clad model railway expert effect). DAS clay is then smeared over and tamped down for a smooth effect. More on that here HERE

Next, paint is slapped on with interior emulsion 'matchpots', the sides of the rail and chairs are later dry brushed with a chocolate or rusty shade. Best not overdone, just a hint.

The static grass is applied everywhere - using winter and autumn shades, those colour being about right for late summer early autumn. WWS Scenics kind sent me some of their new self adhesive grass clumps to try out, you can see a few of those. I rather like them.

Foliage has also been added to where the 3D meets the 2D - that was mainly achieved with Sea Foam and flock. A little Halfords Red Primer was misted over the resulting bushes and trees to give them that September look - before placing on the layout of course! Before you ask, you can find a post about the Cornish engine house here!

On Sunday I started to address the let hand side with an elevated tub run knocked up with some 3mm foam board clad in corrugated plastic card. The panelling effect was achieved by a movable mask and dry-brushing greys and browns. On the left you can see the foundations of the bog with iron polluted water pumped up for deep down underground.

All a bit brief? I'm currently penning a series of features for Model Rail mag....

That's it for this post.... plenty more to do, sitting and typing here won't get any of it done - see ya!

Tuesday 28 March 2017

Forest of Dean Colliery Update

Progress is now moving forward at a good rate. So much so that I hope to be taking it to a show in Warminster on Saturday the 17th of June. Well, that's the plan, I do have a standby layout just in case.

The track is now laid and wired up, above we see the basic diorama style presentation. Built in lighting has also been added. I use photographic bulbs, they give a good level of light, without being too cool or warm.

View looking stage exit right, the pub provides a good scenic break. There will be a level crossing there too.

The track plan here, subject to a few changes should give an idea of where I'm going with this. Foot print is around 4ft 3" by 1 foot deep.

Preparing the backscene, using Halfords automotive paint on to card. Most of the backscene will be hidden behind trees and buildings, so nothing too detailed or complicated is fine.

The card backscene was later inserted in to the diorama case and glued in to place. The pegs are just holding the top in place while the glue sets. PVA in this case.

The track has also been ballasted using sand. This is just a sub layer, a slurry of modelling clay will form a fine screed over the top to give the impression of fine cinders and clinker. The later colouring, which will be far removed from the clean and clinical look here.

The photo taken on my Polbrook Gurney Colliery layout will demonstrate where all this is going! It can be tricky at times to imagine the finished result. Luckily this is a proven method. Fingers crossed!!

Here is my deadline! Gulp.

Ps. Here's an old blog post from a few years ago explaining my ballasting in greater detail. http://nevardmedia.blogspot.co.uk/2011/08/creating-effect-of-ash-ballast.html

Tuesday 28 February 2017

Tuesday Photo

Click for a bigger view
44417 carefully propels a rake of empties up the gradient in to Polbrook Gurney Colliery. Note the ancient tipping wagons to the right. It's likely they were used for removal of spoil.

The 4F started life as an Airfix model dating from around 1982. Recently I commissioned Phillip Hall to pop a decent chassis under it. Phil, with his amazing mechanical skills has made it fully compensated with pick ups on every wheel including tender. It sticks to the track like a limpet, and has an incredible pulling power. To try to match the fabulous chassis, I performed some cosmetic work on the rest of the engine with a new paint job and lots of extra detail. This one really is a keeper, and the odd time I do an exhibition, this little beastie will run all weekend even on the dirtiest track without missing a beat.

The contractor's wagons are part of a rake of 3, from the excellent RT Models white metal kit range.

Saturday 25 February 2017

Ahead of its time?

Dug this late 1970s Airfix 14xx out the other day. I recall it was one of my first weathering exercises around 1980 using airbrushing and dry brushing. I also added etched cabside plates.

The body with separate handrails and other detail was well ahead of its time for UK outline back then. I think it still looks pretty good. Sadly the chassis is quite the opposite, almost 40 years on it's s very much a non-runner. Might be worth putting something else under there from Comet or High Level in due course.

Here is the little locomotive posed on Brew Street, my recent 'nano' layout.

Above photo grabbed on the new (ish) iPhone 7, click on it for a bigger version.

Wednesday 22 February 2017

On track...

Forest of Dean Project update...
Cork sheet as a track underlay is so 2007 darhlings...
I lay my track on 6mm foam board, then insert and glue it in to the diorama case. It's much easier to align the trackwork properly outside the diorama case. That Bertie #borderterrier supervising.