A reader of this blog questioned my use of 6mm ply as a substrate for my model of Morpeth station. At the time I was wondering whether I had gone ott myself, but I did have sound reasons for the choice of such a “heavy-duty” material. Firstly, using such thick ply would ensure a sound and dead straight model that no amount of time would warp. I’ve yet to build a model in the traditional model building materials that hasn’t warped to some degree. Secondly, the use of the ply allowed me to get the depth around the windows and doors I was looking for. I was worried that using a thinner material would have the window and door castings sitting proud of the surface on the interior of the building, thus making them more prone to coming adrift. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that the window and door castings in this model will be going nowhere. Finally, using 6mm ply has allowed me to use fully fledged woodworking tools in constructing the substructure. This becomes more problematic with material much thinner than 6mm. I have full-sized woodworking tools that allow me to cut components to extremely tight tolerances; far more accurately than I could achieve if I had been working in card or styrene. All the joined surfaces are absolutely square and flat to each other allowing for extremely strong glued joints.
While all of the above were foreseen advantages of using the 6mm ply one more has emerged over the last few days as I’ve started to work on the final details of the model. Modelling fences accurately has always been a bit of a bugbear with me: I really like fences and I like them in as wide a variety as possible. Applying a fence along the edge of a model railway platform presents problems because is can often be difficult to get the fence to sit down realistically onto the surface of the platform and it can also be quite difficult to achieve the strength sufficient to prevent it coming adrift. Stray sleeves can catch fences and rip them up faster than you can say “be careful”. The fences on the platform of Morpeth station have been exercising my mind for some time now and using the 6mm ply as a substructure has allowed me to use brass “pins” (short lengths of brass rod) as anchors to hold the fence in place while it is being constructed. I simply drilled holes where I wanted the posts to go and then slotted a pre-drilled post onto each of these pins. The rails were then attached with a little glue. The whole assembly could then be lifted off and painted away from the model. The pins were solidly anchored in the ply and allowed me to repeatedly place and remove the fences to make adjustments. A lighter, thinner material would not have allowed me to do this quite so easily.
Over the last few days I’ve installed the fences on the rear of the platform, installed some signs, begun weathering the corrugated material (it will look better than the photos when I’m done, I promise) and I’ve finally begun work on the veranda awning. The first thing I did was to attach a “plate” (a length of .040x .125 styrene strip) to the front face of the building. This sits just above the windows and doors and represents the bottom of the cross joists that will eventually hold up the roof of the veranda. Everything will hang from the datum point provided by this plate. I wanted to build the veranda frame in-situ but be able to detach it from building for later painting. I decided to bolt the plate to the building using 4x12BA bolts. When I’ve completed the frame I’ll unbolt these and paint the structure before rebolting it to the building. I used my brass pin method to install a row of veranda posts on the platform surface. Using this pin method allowed me to sit the posts in place and check things well before I commit myself to anything permanently.
I used .100x.100 stryene posts as these matched some prototype dimensions I had and then took a couple of photos so I could look at the results. I must admit that the .100x.100 posts looked a little anemic in the photos, in spite of being almost spot on the prototype dimensions I had on hand. I got out a few photos of the prototype station and decided that the posts needed to be a little beefier so I repeated the exercise using .125x.125 styrene. The difference is quite apparent to my eye and this does seem to speak to the need not to be afraid of changing something if it doesn’t look right. I suppose it also says something about the use of digital photography as an integral modelling toll. I must admit however that what was on my mind was whether it was the veranda posts that were thick or whether it was me 🙂