Sunday, 17 February 2013

Weighing up Progress

I would be lying if I didn't admit to being a little disappointed with progress this week. I had really hoped to have started work on the landscaping side of things . I suspect though that in reality I've moved forward a long way, even if progress on the ground has been less evident.

The Mk 1 bridge is built, and is in the process of being upgraded with an alternative set of textures that seem to me to be a better combination than my original choice. The alternative brick work I've gone for is I think an all round improvement. The stone work has been a more subjective choice. The ashlar I started with is probably not a bad match for the prototype, but just didn't seem to work the foreground location. I've gone for a much softer rubble texture now which not only looks less like paper and more like stone but which also, I think, provides a less harsh visual break at the end of the layout. Incidentally part of the problem I'm having with the stone effect papers seems to be a result of the complex issue of colour profiling the printer so the colour it prints matches the colour things are meant to be.

Station Buildings
I've also been doing a lot of thinking, and 3d sketching, of other possible buildings. In particular I've decided the structure on the platform is definitely going to be one of the lampshed/urinals, I've been toying with having one of the smaller TVR weighbridges in the goods yard. I like the idea of the weighbridge, but I'm struggling to find a location for it that works with the other buildings as a composition. It feels like it should make sense to have some focus of attention in the centre foreground since all the other structures are up close to the backscene but the mock ups suggests otherwise.

Signal Box
As the picture shows I've also made a start on the signal box.Or at least I've made a start on mocking up the signal box. After a few experiments in construction techniques this week I'm more confident that after tackling a couple more buildings I should be able to produce a basic model of it. Like the bridge I'm not expecting the first version to be the definitive version. It is becoming obvious that this is the key structure in the scene for a number of reasons, including its size, location and colouring. I won't deny there are times when I think it would be easier to just throw together the Ratio kit or to chop down the Wills one and replace the lower storey timbering with brick work.

Getting the signal box right is probably the point at which I decide switching to building the next version of the layout to EM gauge is justified.

The photo also shows I've blocked in the backscene. This is the first time I've used a curved backscene and even though, like everything else on the layout, it is as about as simple as you can get it, it has still taxed my mind trying to work out what will or won't work. The big difficulty is representing horizontal straight lines. I've also got very little height to work with in which to convey a sense of distance and whereas at the bridge end the back scene will be biased towards foreground by the time it gets to the station it needs to represent the far distance That is another reason to stick with the larger signal box to disguise that transition.

I was hoping to get hold of an IKEA Dioder flexible strip LED light which would both follow the curve of the backscene and also has the ability to be set to different colours, which I thought might be useful to compensate for the lighting in my office being very changeable and  from a real mess of sources with different colour temperatures.

Since they didn't have any in stock I've compromised in the short term with the much much cheaper Ledberg which is adequate for now.

Track and Electrics
So one of the reasons progress slowed last month was because I broke my Heath Robinson linkage between the DPDT switch and the point tiebar. This should have been a simple job to fix, but it is an important one because I don't want to have to keep turning the baseboard on tis side or upside down to work on it once the scenics start going into place. I say it should have been simple, and it would have been had I not had a little accident with the superglue....

Wednesday, 13 February 2013


So that is the basic construction fo the Mk 1 version of the bridge complete.

I need to fox the parapets properly, finish painting the bridge section, trim some of the brick paper, shift it slightly to the left to restore the proper clearance, and then dirty it down.

After that I can throw it away and do it properly.

The Mk 2 version is already on the drawing board, and benefits from the lessons I've learnt building this one.

I need to find a better ashlar texture for the stone portion. The brick is fine but next time I'll print it a little darker.

Although this is a relatively simple structure it has taken me far too long to work out the details and it has become a bit of an albatross. Hopefully with this version in place I can crack on with the other structures before coming back to build Mk2

Loads of Lorries

So, road vehicles.

A bit like figures these are high up on my personal list of things that can ruin any scene. The pitfalls for me include:

  • Cliched vehicles that every layout seems to have
  • Pristine paint jobs
  • Inauthentic/atypical colour schemes
  • Anachronisms
  • Glazing
  • How they are placed in the scene
Avoiding the cliche means ignoring the Airfix kits that would have been my first choice twenty years ago, although Phil Parker has shown how they can be personalised very successfully.

It seems the current cliche is the BaseToys Bantam Karrier in various guises. I can understand  why because it is that little bit unusual.

I'm lucky in having a couple of photos of the goods yard on the TVR taken during the period I'm modelling which show the lorries that were frequenting them. In theory if I spent long enough trawling through the component parts from Road Transport Images I could probably come up with a perfect match. That, in any case is the long term plan.

In the meantime I've gone for a couple of AEC's. I snapped up EFE Lloyds of Ludlow  Mk V Mammoth simply because it isn't often I see a vehicle in an appropriate livery for the area the layout is set in. Looking at in the flesh it is clear it needs a new body to be acceptable. At that point it become an interesting exercise in evaluating Value For Money to compare it with the other AEC, a Base Toys Mercury

It lacks the high quality printing on the EFE version, and a few details, but the basics are there, and at a bargain £2.50 stripping it down and repainting plain green isn't going to seem like sacrilege. Just look at that thickly applied glossy black paint on the chassis. Re-glazing is a challenge I'm not looking forward too.

The intention is for the lorry to sit right at the front of the layout, as another layer in the disguise of the "bitsa station", so getting the right level of detail is going to be a balancing act. It will have to look right, but I don't want to draw attention to it.

Other Progress

As I mentioned in the bridge post I managed to get to a model shop today. For a chain I've always found Antics in Coventry really really helpful, even if the stock is a little limited since their change of premises.

If nothing else they maintain a decent stock of Plastruct. It is one of those products which always seems expensive by pack size, but a lot cheaper when you think of the work it saves.

I've been struggling for some time to steel myself to start work on the corrugated iron goods shed. These corrugated buildings were a major feature of the Tanat Valley and as a fan of corrugated iron architecture they are one of the attractions of the TVR as a prototype. The downside from a modelling perspective is they all seem to have sat on relatively flimsy, in 4mm scale, timber legs. Trying to make these both accurately and with adequate strength has been putting me off making progress. I took a copy of the drawing from mike Lloyd's book into Antics in the hope that there might be a Plastruct section that would provide a shortcut, and for one my luck was in. The 1/2" styrene truss isn't a perfect match, but with some 2mm x 2.5mm verticals it will do the job for me. Once again that will mean altering the dimensions slightly from the prototype, but I think the compromise will be preferable to my other idea which was to build it on brick piers instead.

The location on the model means the actual size of the shed will be disguised anyway, and it will be further disguised by having a lorry parked in front of it.

Now I've had long discussions with myself about whether or not to include a lorry in the scene. Quite apart from the question of it being cliched there is also the question of the standard of model that can stand being such a prominent feature in the scene.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

A Bridge from Blodwell

I don't know about you, but that last post from a month ago really got my hopes up about there being some rapid progress.

That the progress has not been obvious comes down to a number of things that I guess some of you will recognise. First and foremost I had a busy period at work which not only took up my time, but also that small part of my brain that I need to work out the 3D jigsaw aspects of construction.
Second there was the very question of that 3D jigsaw, and exactly how some things were going to fit together, and in what order they need to be built. Without that being clear in my mind it was hard to break the tasks down into the small manageable chunks of time that I can devote to the hobby. Third I packed all my modelling stuff away to deep clean the office/hobby room and I'm only just beginning to remember where I put things. Incidentally for a small layout the bits and bobs need for construction seem to take up an awful lot of room.

If I'm honest there is also a fourth reason that is more significant than it should be. I broke the linkage between the DPDT switch and the point tie-bar. This was always a bit of a lash up and I knew I was pushing my luck but it was still dispiriting, and I also didn't want to carry on with scenic work until I was 100% certain the track work wasn't going to be an issue. It is a five minute job to fix, but until I got a chance to dash out to a model shop I didn't have the small piece of tube I needed to reinforce the connection.

That I've managed to get hold of the tubing today is largely because I've also bitten the bullet and taken a week off work to get some chores done, and I'm at the stage in construction where work on the layout feels like a chore.

So what am I actually doing?

The focus this week is mostly on the bridge that provides the exit from one end of the baseboard. This is based on the bridge still standing at the site of Blodwell Junction. The drawing I used for the initial mock up was a copy of the one in Mike Lloyd's excellent book on the Tanat Valley. For a number of reason's I've had to adjust the design of the bridge to fit the layout, so that drawing has acted as a guide rather than anything else. I also struggled to work out the relation of various elements of it, so I've produced my own drawing in 3D using Sketchup.

I guess I could write an entire post about my love hate relationship with this software, I used to use it a lot when it was a Google product but knew that not having used it for a couple of years I was going to have a sharp learning curve getting to grips with it again, even for a project as simple as this.

Anyway, here is a view of the mock up now with this latest version of the bridge in place.

Just for now ignore the stonework and the grass area, this is very much a  maquette.

So now I'm in the middle of building the first 3D iteration of the bridge. I'm doubtful how well this first attempt will work, but then this has always been a learning exercise