Ship Ahoy Again

After a couple of months away from the modelling bench as I struggled through a drawn out home renovation I finally found myself with a Sunday somewhat free from household tasks so that I was able to get some modelling done.

The pier is essetially finished but it lacks any real scenic detailing in terms of junk and trains however I can now move onto the ship. I decide to put the water and sky into the background of this photo mainly because of the clutter in the background which was annoying me.

I did essentially three main jobs today:

  1. I stained up the final batch of timber ready to be glued into place and then glued three different batches of piers and trim into position.
  2. I applied some 21/2″ NBW casting along the new edge trim. These are the only NBW castings I’ve used so far on this model. As most of the castings I could have applied would have been under the deck or hidden behind the ship I decided to save myself the trouble and left them off.
  3. I painted some white metal bollards supplied to me by renowned UK modeller Gordon Gravett. He was kind enough to offer them and I wasn’t dumb enough to say no.

After my most recent house move I had to unpack the ship model kit and take a proper look inside the box. I’ve had the kit for a few years and I have looked at the contents in the past but I’ve never opened up the packs inside and taken a good look. I also read back over an article in the UK modelling magazine Model Railway Journal issue #31 where a modeller describes his work on the same kit. I haven’t actually started on building the ship but this will be one of the next jobs on the shortening to do list. Aside from a small cabin I need to make for the shoreline and a bit of basic scenery cover the layout is pretty close to being complete. There is still the small matter of the ship to build and the new fiddleyard turntable to design and make but I’m finding it quite disconcerting that I’m about to start construction on the ship. I’ve been thinking and planning for this for so long that it doesn’t seem quite real.

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Hard Landscaping

I’ve been home a few days but have only managed a couple of quick sessions on the layout since arriving back. Some rodents decided the wiring in my car was edible so I found myself with a lot of running around to do to get it back from the mechanics. Still i managed to get a little done and the work has mainly focussed on getting some basic ground cover down and introducing some built details into the landscape prior to shrubbing up the landforms and finally completing the 3rd module.

After covering the extruded foam that forms the terrain with my preferred covering of small squares of paper towel I painted it the base yellow colour I reserve for this stage. Same routine I've explained on the blog a couple of times. The same colour is under all the landscape and is used as a fascia colour.

After covering the extruded foam that forms the terrain with my preferred covering of small squares of paper towel I painted it the base yellow colour I reserve for this stage. Same routine I’ve explained on the blog a couple of times. The same colour is under all the landscape and is used as a fascia colour. You can see the pier abutment and the foundation for the gate keeper’s hut in this photo.

I like to introduce small huts, fence lines and other man-made objects into most spare corners if there’s space. I’m not all that interested in modelling the rural landscape, I find it fairly “samey” so I make an effort to fill spare corner with objects. This also serves to reduce the number of trees I’m required to use and as I won’t make my own this saves me money because if there’s a building on a piece of layout it doesn’t need a tree! 🙂

Being the inveterate kit buyer that I am quite a few years ago I purchased a Berkshire Valley Train Crew Shed thinking “that will fit nicely in a corner of a layout somewhere”. I can’t remember how many years have passed since I bought this kit but the “corner” has finally turned up in the shape of the small triangle of unoccupied land formed by the approach to the pier. The foundation of the small hut comes as a pre-coloured foundation and I’ve plonked this down in the spot reserved for it. When I cut the foam back to make the landscape reasonably flat I didn’t have quite enough space for the building where I’d intended it to be so I had to build up the front with a small foundation wall. This is the dark red sitting proud of the landscape in the photo. I could have made this quite a bit longer but I like the idea of this hut sitting precariously on the edge of the river.

Prior to going overseas I was again swapping emails with Gordon Gravett and as a past ship modeller he offered any assistance he could provide and I mentioned my lack of a suitable bollard to tie the ship up to the pier. When I got home a small package was sitting in the letter box which contained a number of two different types of bollard. They aren’t the same type that were used at Coffs Harbour but they’re more than adequate for the task. Mr Gravett is a real gentleman.

The two types of blooard sent to me by Gordon Gravett will look great on the pier. All I now need to do is mork on my knots to leanr how to tie the ship up. I'm bound to get it wrong and some old sea dog will make an adverse comment.

The two types of bollard sent to me by Gordon Gravett will look great on the pier. All I now need to do is work on my knots to learn how to tie the ship up. I’m bound to get it wrong and some old sea dog will make an adverse comment.

I managed to make some progress today bt applying a base coat of ground cover and getting the pier abutment and hut foundation coloured and installed. I also glued a line of fencing along the edge of the track and finally glued the small landing “pier” in front of the mill building I recently described here. It can be seen in the photo above sitting the wrong way round, prior to being glued in place.

These two scenic items are the final stage of the "hard" landscaping I need to insall prior to the landform being covered in trees, weeds and scrub.

These two scenic items are the final stage of the “hard” landscaping I need to install prior to the landform being covered in trees, weeds and scrub.

I spent an hour or so this evening gluing in the abutment and foundation wall and then filled the gap behind the foundation with some spak filler and took the photo above. I’m going to be busy moving into a new home over the next few weeks starting this Wednesday so progress is likely to be very patchy in that time. I’ve quite deliberately not rushed into building the piers for the jetty because once I get into this part of the project I know from past experience that everything else will get neglected. I want all the landscape to me finished before moving onto the next stage.

Colour Applied

It’s nice to have some time to devote to modelling prior to trooping off to the rellos over Christmas. I’m also heading overseas for a couple of weeks in the new year so I want to get as much done on the mill as possible before I go. In spite of this desire to get some progress made it is amazing how fast things have moved today.

I'm about 90% done on the colouring job of the main struture in this shot. I want to remove some of the motar clour on the foundation and brickwork and I may add a little white to lighten these areas up and reduce the contrast. However the colouring is essentially done.

I’m about 90% done on the colouring job of the main structure in this shot. I want to remove some of the mortar colour on the foundation and brickwork and I may add a little white to lighten these areas up and reduce the contrast. However the colouring is essentially done.

Once I got started on the colouring process this morning things proceeded very quickly. An ink wash for the walls followed by an application of Tamiya acrylics to the bricks and foundation which was allowed to dry for a few hours after which I applied a light coat of light grey water-colour to both the masonry areas. This tones down the stark brightness of the colours straight from the Tamiya bottles and also allows you to remove some of the surface colour later with a damp cotton bud (que tip). The S-shaped wall anchors are Grandt Line castings.

I have the Grandt Line window frames painted, all I need to do is apply glazing. I had a minor panic when I realized I was out of clear styrene but soon discovered that I had some suitable material available, sourced from the packaging of some Christmas cards I purchased this morning. The joys of Christmas 🙂

Just Another Brick In (Or Under) The Wall

I’m not much of a Pink Floyd fan so I’m quite content to misquote a song of their’s in the title. My modelling has been all about bricks this week.

I’ve barely been able to do any modelling all week. The end of the academic year in Australia means that this time of year is filled with reports, presentations, retirement dinners, graduations and formals of one type or another and I have about two of every type to attend because my school covers 13 years of schooling on one site. I’ve only been home in the evening for about a third of evenings for the last two weeks but there is a light at the end of the tunnel when the cherubs finally stop coming to school after next Friday and they’re inflicted exclusively on their parents for the following 5 or 6 weeks. Bliss 🙂 Modelling has taken a definite back seat for the last couple of weeks.

In spite of these travails I’m not prevented from thinking about the models I’m building as I drive to and from work and my mind was occupied with a problem of my own making dating back a month or so this past week. In building the wooden carcass for the mill building I’m currently covering in DAS modelling clay, I made a cardboard mock-up of the structure and used this as the basis of the wooden frame for the permanent building. Not checking prototype photos carefully enough, I failed to take into account a slight quirk of this mid 19th century building and found a problem that would be difficult to fix after I’d made the wooden frame a few weeks ago.

This very old shot shows the way the roof sits inside the exterior walls.

This very old photo shows the way the roof of Rundles Mill sits inside the exterior walls. The mill is the building on the far left.

If you look at the prototype photo above you can see that the roof line of the mill building is a classic 19th style with the roof covering sitting inside the exterior walls of the structure. Almost 100% of the buildings I’ve ever constructed have the roof sitting on top of the exterior walls with the roof sitting proud of these planes, thus providing an eave to which fascia boards are attached. As a modeller this is a wonderful roofing method because it means the modeller needn’t be all that neat at the roof line because there are convenient pieces of trim that sit in places that hide the rough edges. Not that my edges are ever rough mind you 🙂 However the problem I’d encountered was that I hadn’t taken this slightly different method of construction into account when I’d cut up my wooden wall sections and as such, I’d left no room to fit the roof inside the walls. I toyed with the idea of roofing the building in the “standard” way, namely with an overhanging roofline with eaves ,but I knew in my heart this would never do: I needed to find a way to extend the side walls by about 6mm above the front and rear walls to allow room for the roof to sit inside the upper wall line as in the photo above.

I've trimmed the tops of the walls with 12"x12' Mt Albert Bass wood and I've also finished scribing in the brick patches.

I’ve trimmed the tops of the walls with 12″x12′ Mt Albert Bass wood and I’ve also finished scribing in the brick patches.

I have no plans for this building and no idea of dimensions so it’s nowhere near the size of the original. This doesn’t bother me in the least, however covering the roof with a standard pitched roof with corrugated iron or tile with eaves would have been wrong on so many levels and it would have screamed at me every time I looked it. I finished scribing in the brick courses this afternoon and I’m very close to starting to render the exterior surface of the structure with DAS. I needed a way to extend the walls above the current wall height before I could proceed with this. The solution was very simple in the end: I cut and glued in place some 12×12 Mt Albert lumber to extend the height of the wall line. I now have that telltale extra wall height which will allow me to construct the roof sitting inside the walls.

Not much progress but some progress is better than none.

Brick Work

The pace of this project seems to have taken off in the last few weeks. Anyone would think I’ve got the bit between my teeth 🙂 I’ve only just finished the J Parker scene and I’ve immediately moved onto the Rundles Mill building that I posted a photo of a few weeks ago. This building takes me back to my regular habit of scratchbuilding structures and I’m also back to my standard method of dealing with masonry buildings by covering a sub structure of plywood with the air drying modelling clay DAS. After this dries I sand it smooth, scribe in the masonry shapes I want and the apply colour. Simple! 🙂

Rundles Mill is a little unusual in that it appears to be a rendered structure. As is always the case, a rendered structure must have the cement render applied over something and in this instance I’m guessing that it was either cut stone (probably sandstone) or brick. There were brick kilns on the Morpeth line a few kilometers down the line at Raworth so the chances are that the building was built originally from brick.

This prototype shot of the Morpeth line shows the Maitland end of Rundles Mill. The surface of the rendered wall is mottled in a way that suggests to me that there bricks beneath the surface of the cement but I can't be certain.

This prototype shot of the Morpeth line shows the Maitland end of Rundles Mill. The surface of the rendered wall is mottled in a way that suggests to me that there are bricks beneath the surface of the cement, but I can’t be certain.

I’ve wanted to build Rundles Mill for quite a few years but I don’t have the space to build a full scale model of the structure and it was gone by the 1960s anyway so there is no chance of getting measurements and the chances of finding a plan are pretty slim too. It was a very large structure and photos of the river side of the building suggest that it was expanded at some point in the latter half of the 19th century because it is actually two structures butted up against each other.

My plan was to make my model of Rundles Mill fit the space I have available and use it as a screen to hide the entrance of trains onto the scenic portion of the layout. I use Gordon Gravett’s well-known technique of covering a basic structural box with DAS modelling clay and then scribing patterns into this once it’s dry. The only difference between the way Gordon does his buildings and mine are that he makes his boxes from foam core board whereas I like to make mine from 6mm or 7mm ply. I don’t like warping! I help the clay to stick to the box by applying a thin coat of PVA to the wood before applying the DAS. The work is done in small patches so the glue doesn’t go off before I’ve got the DAS in place.

On this project I wanted to represent the building as being fairly run down and I thought a smooth, rendered building would be a little plain and boring so I decided to jazz things up a bit by adding a few spots where the render has dropped off, revealing the sub-structure of bricks beneath. To achieve this I routered some shallow slots in the surface of the plywood walls prior to assembling the sub-structure. I planned to fill these with a thin layer of DAS and then have these show through the smooth upper surface of the render.

This shot shows my basic technique for making the brickwork that is supposed to lie beneath the cement render. I've commenced scribing in the bricks on the left hand side.

This shot shows my basic technique for making the brickwork that is supposed to lie beneath the cement render. I’ve commenced scribing in the bricks on the left hand side. The “bricks” are 2.5mm thick and 5mm long (about 5″X10″ in 1:43.5)

A couple of nights ago I applied some PVA to my pre-routered slots and let this clay dry overnight. When the clay had dried I gave the surface of the resulting patches a light sanding with some coarse sandpaper. Last night I scribed some horizontal lines into the surface of the dry clay and tonight I started scribing in the bricks. I’ll come back and cover the whole structure in a thin (about 3mm) layer of DAS when all the bricks are done, leaving some of the bricks uncovered as if the render has dropped away over time. The white clay is best for this project (DAS is also available in terracotta) because it takes colour beautifully being a paper based product.

Just A Scenic Break?

I took a big step in the final stages of my J Parker & Sons junk yard tonight by running a base layer of scenery up to the building. I’ve had the space for the building complete, ready to accept the building and various hard landscape items for a while now. You might wonder about why I paint my scenery base in an ochre yellow tone. About 10 years ago a well-known member of the local model railway scene told me my scenery on Queens Wharf was too green. I sort of agreed with him on one level but I wasn’t willing to totally concede to what he was suggesting. My first area of disagreement with him was that Morpeth sits on a river near the coast, it’s not located in the dry central west of NSW so I felt having things a little more green wasn’t out-of-place. I hadn’t made QW really yellow like it would have been if I’d been modelling an area around Parkes but then it didn’t look like Ireland either! I was convinced that my tones were correct for what I wanted to achieve and when photo backdrops of real Australian landscapes came along and I applied one of these to the background of Morpeth I felt that my colour choices had been vindicated. The tones of the layout matched perfectly with the backdrop and I made no changes to my colour palette at all.

This photo shows the building base I will be installing the scene on. It's made from 7mm plywood and extruded foam. The yeloow is a colour matched pot from an original litre can i could no longer buy off the shelf. I seem to remember the original was called Applebox but I just went to my local paint shop and they matched this colour from a sample.

This photo shows the building base I will be installing the scene on. It’s made from 7mm plywood and extruded foam. The yellow is a colour matched pot from an original litre can I could no longer buy off the shelf. I seem to remember the original colour was called “Applebox” but I just went to my local paint shop and they matched the colour from a sample.

The scenery steps I take are a simple standard process I apply to all the scenery I do. I begin by painting the entire base of the model I’m installing with my standard ochre yellow. This colour is applied to the fascia as well and so it runs up the front of the layout and in under the scenery. The reason I paint my base yellow is because I find that the base colour you choose tends to set a background tone to all the scenery applied above it. There are always spots that peek through but if you use a “dirt” colour (read for this chocolate-brown), I find the scenery ends up looking far too dark to my eye. Australia is dry, the scenery needs to have a predominantly yellow tone, however this does not mean that every Australian layout needs to be “yellow”. A colour palette that revolves around the yellow end of the spectrum does not mean that there is no green in the landscape. I drive 70km to work and home every working day through rural northern NSW (there is not one large town between my home and work), so believe me, not every part of the Australian landscape is dry, dusty and parched straw yellow. Where there’s water there’s green and while Australian greens in the south-east of the continent might be a green that’s more on the olive end of the spectrum, it is nevertheless green.

I like my models to sit on something really substantial as they will be travelling a long way in my trailer so I glue them down securely, really securely! The main building was glued in place using construction adhesive. After the models have been secured to the wooden base I place the scenic details around that I’ve prepared to see what works best. In this case I was using a few Rusty Rails castings and a wooden and corro open sided shed that I’d knocked up from scrap leftovers.

This photo shows the building and surrounding yard in the first stages of applying the scenery. This is really just the base cover which is sand and Woodland Scenics blended turf.

This photo shows the building and surrounding yard in the first stages of applying the scenery. This is really just the base cover which is sand and Woodland Scenics blended turf. I think the colour tones from the 3D scenery match the photo backdrop perfectly so I feel vindicated in not taking too much notice of my above mentioned critic.

The next step is fences. I like fences because they are an absolutely critical indicator of human presence, especially anywhere that railways exist. So I will make and apply a fence line to define the space and draw the line along the railway boundary. In this case I used some Model-O-Kits corrugated fence but anything suitable such as wooden paling fence would have done. So with the space defined and the fences in place I decide where I want the main building. You’ll notice that the main structure is the largest scenic item within the yard, it needs to dominate the scene. Also it’s not centred in the yard but offset to one end by about one-quarter of the yard’s total length. Sitting it right in the center of this mini scene would have set it up to look like it’s a model that’s been placed. Of course it is a model that’s been placed but you want to reduce the impression that this is the case, not draw attention to it.

I’ve spent a few nights assembling and applying the loading docks and steps to the three doors that are visible on this side of the building. There was a fourth on the back of the building but I didn’t bother installing this as it can’t be seen and leads directly into the bank at the rear anyway. I began running in the scenery by brushing a fairly thick layer of neat PVA around the scenic items and the base of the building and then I sprinkled on a layer of yellow-ish river sand. I had a small supply of some beautifully fine yellow river sand that lasted me a few years but I’ve recently replaced this supply with some from the local area. It’s not as fine and it has too much brown in it but it does the job. I spray this sand with a sprizter bottle of water lightly and this water of course has the ubiquitous drop of dish washing liquid in it. If I think the sand looks as if it isn’t drawing up the glue I’ve brushed on I bathe the area with more PVA mixed with water and then sprinkle selected spots along the edges with Woodland Scenics Blended Turf. The final stage is to sprinkle very sparing amounts of the Green Turf from Woodland Scenics. After this I resist the urge to start gluing in shrubs and weeds. I like this base cover to be thoroughly dry before I touch it again and depending on the season this can take up to two days.

So is this just an expensive and time consuming scenic break? It does play the role of interrupting the view of the trains but it has enough detail to interest the veiwer in its own right so I don’t think the effort’s wasted.

Construction Boom

While I really enjoy structure modelling I find the process of trying to fit buildings in the narrow slices of real estate that are left after the track is laid to be a bit of a challenge. I was having a discussion with a recently retired friend of mine a week ago and he was telling me that he thinks he’ll probably never build a large layout, confining himself to a narrow shelf layout and dioramas. I can see the appeal of this approach as it leaves far less to be coped with when we reach our dotage and it also means he can concentrate on the parts of the hobby he really enjoys. However I must admit that I stood looking at the Morpeth module I’m working on at the moment and it came to mind that there are a number of modellers I know who would describe Morpeth as a diorama, reserving the word layout for some enormous, “permanent” structure that one presumably toils away at for years in splendid isolation in the manner of Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel ‘s ceiling. Is this an example of modelling snobbery? I have a vivid memory of one of my English aunts visiting my mother in the 1990s. We were talking about my mum’s home and I referred to her small cottage as a “house”. My aunt immediately corrected me by saying it was a “bungalow”. Evidently a “house” has a ground and an upper floor in the UK, a bungalow being a dwelling built on one level. Does my “layout” hover on the cusp of diorama status? Who gives a rat’s? 🙂

I’ve been making steady progress on the Stoney Creek structure kit I’ve been toiling away at for the past few weeks and it’s getting close to the time when I need to settle on what this structure is going to be. It’s called a foundry in the kit’s instructions but there’s nothing to stop me printing up my own sign and changing its role.

I've managed to install the corrugated iron on this side of the roof but the other side remains to be done.

I’ve managed to install the corrugated iron on this side of the roof but the other side remains to be done.

I was toying with the idea of making another model to place alongside this one and I have a building kit that is essentially a corrugated iron shed but to be honest I’m a bit over corrugated iron and felt that the kit was just a little big for the space I have available. So in doing some thinking and searching I’ve decided that this building site is going to remain a foundry but it will incorporate a junk/recycling yard and as such I ordered some junk piles from Rusty Rails Models. The castings I ordered arrived in the mail today and look like they will fit the bill perfectly. If anything it’s more than likely I’ll end up buying some more. So when I finish the building kit I’ll install it on the prepared base permanently, surround this with some retaining walls and fences and then junk up the yard with the castings I’ve purchased. To draw a line at one end of the yard I might scratch build a modest, open sided shed that could have a car parked in it or it might get a truck model with the company logo on its side. We’ll wait and see.

To take advantage of some time off I had last week I put some work into the structure base for the mill building that will sit on the other side of the creek on this module. This building is quite large and disguises the track entry point at this end of the layout (or diorama) 🙂

 

This photo shows the basic ply box struture that makes up the mill building. This box will get a covering of DAS modelling clay, a range of Grandt Line windows will be installed and the roof will be covered in red tiles. No more corro! :-)

This photo shows the basic ply box structure that makes up the mill building. This box will get a covering of DAS modelling clay, a range of Grandt Line windows will be installed and the roof will be covered in red tiles. No more corro! 🙂

It may not look like much at the moment but when I’m finished this structure will be very imposing. I’ll cover the basic box structure in a simulated “render” over brick achieved by the use of white DAS modelling clay. In several spots (you can see these in the photo) I’ve milled out shallow trenches where I’ll commence by smearing in a layer of DAS that will have bricks scribed into them. After these have dried and been scribed I’ll go over the whole structure with a plain layer of DAS and when dry this will be lightly sanded and coloured. I’ll leave parts of the bricks showing through the render as if the render has crumbled and fallen away. I feel I can justify this building looking a little old and run down; evidently it was closed and out of use by 1860! That’s about 80-90 years prior to the period I’m modelling. It was torn down sometime after the 1950s.

I’ve detailed this method of applying masonry to building bases on a number of occasions on this blog. Just go to the main page and search DAS and you’ll find the pages. I take no credit for developing this method of structure modelling. I first read about it in Gordon Gravett’s books on 7mm modelling which are well worth a read whatever scale you model in. The only major difference between his methods and mine is that he makes his boxes out of foam core material whereas I use 7mm plywood. Why the difference? I have saws, tools and woodworking paraphernalia coming out of my ears. I can construct from ply any shape I like and when it’s made I know it will be straight, square and strong. Under a layer of DAS you can’t tell what it’s made from and this box won’t warp and I can screw it into place so it’s not going nowhere. I can’t say any of that about foam core and I have worked with it before so I know what I’m talking about.