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.

Hull Test

This past week I was away from home four of last six nights so modelling time was restricted so the progress I’ve made has been startling considering this restriction. When I got some time at the workbench I started on the jig to make the piers of Morpeth’s jetty. The pier is actually in two parts:

  • The first part is a short curved length of single track which leads out from dry land onto the section jutting into the Hunter River. I modelled this section after a real pier that existed at Queens Wharf approximately a hundred years ago. This was used to load coal onto river barges but doesn’t seem to have survived much beyond the 1920s.
  • The second section of the pier is a wider, flat platform that loosely mimics the ocean jetty at Coffs Harbour and, to a lesser extent, the one at Byron Bay a bit further up the coast. Ironically I spent two of my nights away at Coffs Harbour at a conference. I could see the real jetty through the window of my motel room. This section of the jetty is 200mm wide and is made up of a 4mm thick piece of ply wood (nothing special here, I bought this at Bunnings a big local hardware chain) wrapped in a layer of Mt Albert strip wood. This platform is held about 2 1/2″ from the surface of the “water” through the use of nine strip-wood piers that I made using a styrene jig. This jig was larger than the one I posted a few weeks ago that I used to make the legs of the curved section of the jetty.
After something like 5 years I finally got to see the hull of the ship I plan to build for this part of the layout sitting adjacent to the pier I've been working on for the last few weeks. I'm chuffed :-)

After something like 5 years I finally got to see the hull of the ship I plan to build for this part of the layout sitting adjacent to the pier I’ve been working on for the last few weeks. I’m chuffed 🙂

The jig went together remarkably quickly and I got stuck into making the piers yesterday. I only made one jig so each pier had to be assembled and glued one at a time. I had to wait around an hour before the glue had set up sufficiently to allow me to prise the pier from the jig: 9 piers X 9 hours = a lot of waiting around. Most of the waiting was for the glue to dry but with a bit of persistence I got all nine piers assembled over a period of about 18 hours (a big chunk of that was sleeping last night) 🙂

While doing all this waiting I managed to listen to the entire second series of the podcast Serial, an offshoot of This American Life, a radio program I highly recommend. Go listen, they both make great modelling companions. I subscribe to both programs via iTunes.

I got the last of the nine piers glued up this morning and then started inserting “pins” into the two outer legs of each pier. Each pier has five legs (approimately 65mm long pieces of 12″x12″ scale timber) but I only pin two to allow the whole assembly to be securly held in place. The pins are 1/2″ 10BA brass blots I screw into the base of the legs the heads of which I snip off to allow the application of a small brass nut from the underside of the water once each pier is in position. I drew a few pencil lines on the surface of my water to position everything in their correct locations and then marked the position of the bolts in relation to the legs on each pier. I drilled two holes through the water, applied some glue to the end of the legs and pushed each pier into position. I then secured each pier by screwing on the two nuts. I also checked each pier was square to the surface of the “water” with a machinists sqare as the glue set up.

At the time of writing I have all nine piers glued and bolted into position and I’ve laid the wooden ply surface of the pier on top of these to check height and position. The next step will be to run some wiring up to the wooden surface of the pier to allow for power to the rails and possibly some lighting fixtures to make the pier look like it’s “populated”. After that I’ll secure the deck to the piers with some glue and brass bolts (these will be quite a bit larger than the 10BA ones I used to hold the piers in place) and then lay some rail.

None of the items above the level of the wooden piers is secured in this photo but having Pioneer on the wooden deck of the jetty gives you a sense of the scale of the ship model.

None of the items above the level of the wooden piers is secured in this photo but having Pioneer on the deck of the jetty gives you a sense of the scale of the ship model.

5 Ton Yard Crane

I began working on the Waratah Model Railway Co 5 ton yard crane kit a couple of days ago and it’s proved a nice diversion from the bigger agenda of finalising the scenery on the 3rd module and getting rails to the pier.

This is a beautifully detailed kit which can be assembled in 4 to 5 hours.

This is a beautifully detailed kit which can be assembled in 4 to 5 hours.

As is my usual habit I didn’t take a great deal of notice of the instructions that were supplied with the kit but I did notice a reference to “diagram” that I hadn’t received. A quick call and this was sent to me by a friend.

I found this kit a real pleasure to assemble although the model turned out far bigger than I’d expected. I don’t know why, I’d sat the base on the vacant spot before starting. It was just that the jib stuck out much further than I’d expected.

The next step is to give it a coat of grey primer over which I’ll apply a coat of rust and crud.

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.

Strips Of Wood

I haven’t made much progress on the layout this week however I did reach the point where I could make some calculations about the materials I’ll need for Morpeth’s pier today and the results came as a bit of a shock. I was able to install the risers for the length of track that crosses the join in the modules today and things went as expected.

This is a shot of the curved roadbed in place with the risers secured with screws and bolts. I don't glue anything in place in case I want to change something later. As long as there's a bit of

This is a shot of the curved roadbed in place with the risers secured with screws and bolts. I don’t glue anything in place in case I want to change something later. As long as there’s a bit of “meat” in the materials being secured I don’t find I need glue.

My roadbed for this project is made up of a 9mm ply sub-road with a track base of a further piece of 4mm ply to which I glue the basswood sleepers (ties). I do the track in this way because it allows me to glue the sleepers to the piece of 4mm ply at the workbench and then screw these lengths of inflex-track to the sub-roadbed. After I’ve installed the 9mm sub-road I will measure and cut the thinner 4mm ply to match the track and then cut this out of a larger sheet with a jig-saw. I glue the sleepers in place, lay some rail and then slip the length of track in place on the layout. I started doing my track this was to match the hand-made points I was constructing on pieces of 4mm ply. The track needed to be sitting on the same base.

I’m going to take this use of ply one step further and make the pier out of a sandwich of 4mm ply and different sizes of Mt Albert stripwood. I’ve drawn the curve of the track out into the water, between the end of the track that is running on “dry ground” and the deck of the main pier on the “water’s” surface. The pier will be reached by a series of seven small trestles that are the width of plain track. Once the curve of this length of track (about 600mm or 2′) straightens out the pier widens into a straight length of “deck” that runs approximately 1.2m (4′) to the end of the module. The ship will sit next to this wider length of pier.

I’ve spent about 4 years thinking about building this pier, not continuously but on and off as the time when I have to make a start on the model itself approached. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been to Coffs Harbour on the mid north coast of New South Wales and taken photos and measurements of the pier there and I’ve also been pondering the various technical problems that need to be overcome to build a model of this size and complexity. I don’t do major sets of drawings, not only don’t I have the technical skill, I’m also too lazy. This model will be made of three major components: one large deck, fourteen sets of trestle legs under the deck and seven sets of smaller trestle legs under the track that leads to the deck. That’s it. I’ll make jigs from styrene to allow me to make up the two different types of trestles but I can’t see any advantage in making up a set of detailed drawings. Any problems I encounter along the way I’ll deal with as they come up.

I got all the stripwood I've been buying for this project out today. There was a lot less than I thought! :-)

I got all the stripwood I’ve been buying for this project out today. There was a lot less than I thought! 🙂

Over the past 3 or 4 years I’ve been buying packs of Mt Albert scale lumber in the three main dimensions my research told me I needed. These are 12″x12″, 4″x12″ and 3″x12″. I haven’t purchased these in any systematic or directed way, I just take the opportunity to buy whatever I think I need and what I find is available from the one or two retailers I purchase from at the exhibitions I regularly attend. I knew I’d be under stocked for the project but today I did some proper calculations and boy oh boy, is this project going to eat strip wood! 🙂

The deck for the main pier is approximately 1.2mx220mm and I plan to “deck” this with strips of 3×12. I need 42m of the stuff and I’ve got 4 or 5 packs of 5 pieces! The 3×12 will also be used for the bracing on the trestles which are really just a row of posts (8mm dowel rod purchased from Bunnings) held together with braces of the 3×12. However the 14 trestle legs require another 19m of the same type of timber. I took a look at the Mt Albert site and they do bulk orders so I’m going to buy 115 lengths of 3×12 which is the variety I need the most of. 42 meters! I bought myself a new bottle of India Ink for this project about two years ago so I could stain all the wood: I might need another bottle! 🙂 Buying the wood in bulk should be a lot cheaper than buying it in packs of 5 pieces.

Ship Ahoy!

In spite of having a perfectly good modelling project to be getting on with I have a habit of trying to stay a step ahead of the game in terms of where my larger layout project is heading. So I took some time away from the modelling bench tonight to do some rearranging of the modules in the spare bedroom I use as a modelling space. I wanted to set up the third scenic module and the “river” module so I can work on them together. The difficulty is that the room is quite small and these two modules sit at right angles to each other so toghether they have an interesting footprint.

I’d been pondering how I was going to fit both modules together inside the house for a couple of weeks as I was working on the J Parker & Sons scene and it came to me the other night that they could be squeezed in if I shifted the scenic module around by 90 degrees and ran the flat “river” module along the wall where the module I’m working on at any one time normally sits.

After a bit of huffing and puffing and propping up at one end I managed to get both modules into my modelling room and bolted together.

After a bit of huffing and puffing and propping up at one end I managed to get both modules into my modelling room and bolted together.

I had to shift various large boxes, no less than two O-scale turntables and some photographic lighting out of the room to get both modules in but I managed it in the end. I couldn’t resist getting the ship model out of storage and plonking it down on the “river” module. It doesn’t look quite as large as I was expecting but I have a feeling this impression will recede once I commence work on the pier and start to lay in the ship’s deck and cabins. I’ve been waiting for about 5 years to build this model with a steadily rising sense of anticipation. I have a lot of prep work to do on the “water’s” surface before I can make a start on the ship and pier. I still haven’t settled on what I’m going to use to make the water but it’s unlikely to be a poured liquid. I’ll fill and sand the surface and then do some test pieces of river before I paint the surface and dollop on one of the many water products available. I’ve long hankered to make the ship model gently rock with the action of the water but I’m still considering whether this is feasible. I can certainly make the ship move up and down gently using a cam and motor system, the hard bit is going to be disguising the edge of the hole the ship will need to rock up and down in. That’s another pondering project.

This shot gives you a better idea of the way the pier, water and land approach interact. I need to cut the curved ply roadbed at the module break and build the scenery up around it so that it looks natural.

This shot gives you a better idea of the way the pier, water and land approach interact. I need to cut the curved ply roadbed at the module break and build the scenery up around it so that it looks natural. I need to cut three pieces of support timber very accurately to hold this roadbed at a constant height and the mitre saw I need to do this with is an hour and a half away at my partner’s home. I’m working on the logistics of getting it over to my place…

As you can see in the background, the mill is nowhere near being finished but it’s a relatively simple project compared to some of my previous buildings. As a plain sided, rendered building all it needs is some details and the application of a layer of plain white DAS. After that it needs colouring, a roof and some scenery around it. Also it only needs to be detailed on two sides as I won’t bother with covering the sides that are facing away from the viewer with DAS. It will still probably take me a month to complete but it’s simple treatment is the reason I decided to make a move on shifting the river module into my modelling room tonight. Before I know it I’ll be laying in a deck and painting the hull with anti-fouling paint.

Avast ye landlubbers and other nautical terms I leant watching old B&W Hollywood movies 🙂

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.