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Track and ballast

 As promised, a look at treatment of track, old and new.

The third picture shows original Arigna track, heavily weathered and toned down with talc and weathering powders, but without any cosmetic rail fixings. The second picture is new track, still needing more coats of paint on rails and sleepers and with no weathering or toning down of the Woodlands fine ash ballast. Note how dark the latter is and what a difference a dusting of talc makes to all the colours. The talc was never fixed and has survived without problems for over thirty shows, including being vacuumed before each one.

 The other two show various attempts at representing the FB rail fixings. Slivers of micro strip are used at the right hand end of picture four, while the other 'fixings' are simply blobs of acrylic paint put on with either a screwdriver or cocktail stick. Both need some weathering or further paint/both, but it is views of the general impression I'm interested in. Arigna got away without any rail fixings, but I'm thinking Belmullet would benefit from a general impression of them, but without going to the trouble of drilling and fitting up to 3000 Peco track pins. Yes really. The actual  fixings were a thin plate held down with a bolt & nut. Note this is 7mm scale, 36.75mm gauge track, using copper clad sleepers and Code 100 flat bottommed rail. The granite ballast is also from Woodlands, being three different tones of their fine grade again. So far, am only thinking of doing the short stretch exiting the layout into the fiddle yard, though may yet do a bit more of the 'mainline' into the station platform, not least because when the layout is operated in early 1900s guise, the ballast would still have been fairly clean - though ash was used extensively in station sidings.

 The final two pictures are a couple of my favourites. The first is at Leiston in Suffolk and shows the siding to Garrett's engineering works, while the second is the approach to Wantage Town station. It is this effect that I'm looking to replicate on the new harbour branch on Belmullet. To my eyes, it is very noticeable how fine the ash ballast looks - even finer than Woodlands, so will be trying a mixture of talc, polyfilla and chinchilla dust to try and replicate the texture.

Eventually...

 

 

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Edited by David Holman
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Thanks for posting, David - looks good. Gives the impression of the real thing: and those prototype pictures are delightful! And I am discovering for myself what an amazing scenic tool talc is....

Edited by Galteemore
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Looking good David.  Getting the right finish to the ballast / ash / clinker is more difficult that it first appears, however once done really finishes a layout!

I have a lot to do with my layout to settle the ballast down, but your comments above give some good ideas.

Ken

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Hi David

The micro strip looks the best- a lot of cutting n sticking though.

What about Gauge N ash ballast with a small scattering of Gauge O ballast in and around the track like the Leiston photo and then weathered?

Eoin

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Has anyone tried something like modelling clay smeared over the sleepers, with very fine ballast (like N scale gravel) rubbed into it? Just leaving rails showing like in the photo of the industrial siding above?

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Jonathan, I sort of did it in Omagh, not up to sleeper level but on the entire yard surface. I coated the baseboard with PVA and scattered fine ballast liberally all over. I then added various mounds of cinders and coal at varying height and fixed them with PVA, water, fairy liquid mix. When totally dry I rubbed modelling clay lightly over to show compressed areas where traffic was heavy. I then painted. See Omagh Goods Yard.

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Modelling clay, Polyfilla, etc are what I have in mind, keeping additional scatter material to a minimum. Depends on the scene being depicted of course, but sometimes get the feeling that what at best should be fist sized pieces, ends up as almost boulder sized ones. In 7mm scale, even a 1mm diameter piece of grit represents a two inch diameter stone, when most yards would have their largest bits only half that at best. 

 Woodlands Scenics fine ballasts (crushed coconut shell, I believe) are about 0.5mm or so, and nominally sold for N gauge. Many 4mm scale modellers use the fine stuff though and I've always been happy with their fine ash in 7mm scale. 

 On the same principles, it is arguable that printed papers are all you need for brickwork, as mortar lines would have little, if any indentation when scaled down 72, or even 43 times, while the same applies to tarmac road surfaces - talc on paint, or 400 grit wet n dry is enough in 7mm scale for me. However, scaling everything down ad infinitum doesn't always work and a bit of over emphasis can help fool the eye into thinking something is right, when it isn't and indeed vice versa, as per not putting in track fixings at all.

 Where is this rambling heading? Not sure, except maybe it is simply a case of beauty is in the eye of the beholder, though as my art teacher always said: 'Paint what you see, not what you think', so maybe careful observation remains the key.

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Further to the above, just back from a walk in a local country park, where the paths are made of crushed stone, most of which was around 1-2cm across. In 7mm/1:43 scale, that equate to around 0.5mm, so about 0.3mm in 00.

 Woodlands coarse cinders and ballast is around 1-2 mm in size, representing something around 7-15cm in real life. Makes you think and certainly wouldn't want to run over a 10cm rock in my car.

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10 minutes ago, Mike 84C said:

David, if you would like to try wood ash, pm me and I''ll send you a bag, 'cos I got the fire lit!

Lit with a magnifying glass..?

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Thanks guys, though no peat fire ash?

Sifted garden soil works well too, apparently.

 We used to have a multifuel heater, before gas arrived in our street and I used phurnacite ash quite a bit for ballast. Gives off a pretty sulphurous smell when mixed with dilute PVA though!

 Several of our neighbours still burn the stuff, so I may well go calling. 

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7 hours ago, murrayec said:

David

I could send some briquette ash, I also have the fire lit!

Eoin

Actually, serious point: sieved turf ash might be a good colour and consistency for certain types of crushed sandy gravel?

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Baseboard 3

 Generally, when I am building layouts, after doing general work like track laying and wiring, I like to concentrate on one board at a time. When I was working full time as a teacher/headteacher/leadership advisor, I used to reckon one 4' x 2' board would take me about a year to complete. Since retiring, things have speeded up a little, though my wife and I often wonder how we ever found time to go to work!

 Anyway, Baseboard 3 is the section holding the loco shed, turntable, distillery, signal box and harbour branch. The first three are all new models and required a fair bit of time. Since then, with the aid of a static grass machine and books by Gordon Gravett, scenic work has proceeded apace - including the addition of a Scot's pine. The latter is straight out of Gordon's second tree book [conifers], although I've used Woodlands Scenics conifer mesh instead of static grass fibres for the foliage. The idea is that the tree's somewhat open canopy will help hide the exit of the mainline into the fiddle yard.

 Most of the ground cover has been done now, except for the sub-board on which the loco shed sits. I want to enter this in my local club's competition, so it will not be fixed to the layout until the end of January. Final detailing will need to wait a bit too - adding figures and other small details, until I've been to the Stevenage show [with Fintonagh], in mid January, when hopefully I'll be able to buy some bits and pieces having missed the Reading Trade Show earlier this month.

 The next steps will be to improve the joint between baseboards 2 and 3 [bit of an earthquake crack at the moment], then get busy with the next board, a key feature of which will be the water tank and 'fortress' coal stage.

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More scenics

 After a bit of a gap over Christmas & the New Year, action has recently focussed again on the baseboards. Number three, nearest the fiddle yard, was reasonably complete, while the middle, number two board had not really been started. First up then was to try and finish off BB3. This meant waiting until after the Chatham club's annual competition, as I wanted to enter the loco shed, to which I also added the coal stage/water tower. And it was worth it too, as the models not only won the 'Buildings' shield, they won the overall shield too, which you can see from the photo is a rather splendid thing.

 Anyway, competition over, I could now go ahead and fix the sub board with the shed to the main layout board, while the coal stage soon kick started work on BB2. Work was the usual tedious, but ultimately satisfying mix of scenics:

  • Filling in gaps and creating ground cover with my usual mix of filler, PVA and acrylic paint. Several layers, each one a bit thinner, aiming for a light gravel surface in the yard areas and rough ground for the scenic bits
  • Once dry, the next layer is a mix of slightly watered down PVA into which Woodlands medium 'crumb' is scattered. This gives a nice uneven surface of the sort you might see in rough ground or moorland.
  •  While this is still wet, the next step was to hit it with the static grass machine, loaded with a mix of 4-6mm fibres of different greens, keeping well away from the bright ones.
  • This was then allowed to dry, after which further treatment was added ranging from extra layers of fibre [stuck with spray mount this time], through fine, dark green scatter sprinkled on to PVA brushed lightly [& sparingly] on the tips of the grass, plus clumps of Postiche, sprayed and sprinkled with fine scatter, to represent brambles.
  • The final layer has used Woodlands flower scatter, mixed with fine crumb, to represent weeds and flowers. This really brings the greenery to life and is quite subtle - so much so that it shows up less in the photographs than it does on the model. I've included a few close ups to try and show what I mean.

 So, BB3 really is [mostly] complete, albeit still needing a couple of figures and a vehicle of some sort outside the distillery. It is currently minus its sky scene & in fact I'm not planning to add these until all three boards are finished. The more observant among you will have noticed that the white cottage from Arigna Town is missing. I'd intended to use this as a feature at the join of BBs 1 & 2, but it just didn't' seem to fit in, so instead some basic rough ground is there instead. To this will be added a patch of hawthorn, as per the back scene, to help hide joins and blend things together. I've also hit on the idea of putting a small area of hard standing next to the goods shed, with the suggestion of a harbour wall and pier on the the back scene. Belmullet seems to have two harbours, linked by a short canal across the neck of the peninsula. The harbour on the north east side is deemed to be served by the branch, while the other is close enough to the station for produce to be carted twist ship and train. That's the theory anyway! 

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Well deserved award - congratulations! Scenery coming on well too; thanks for sharing how it’s done...most useful! I have a quay line closed off by a gate in the harbour wall. I’d thought of suggesting the other end of the quay on the backscene. Think I will now !

Edited by Galteemore
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Seriously impressive stuff David. 

Really love those railings in the second last photo. 

The buffer stop and loco shed just hit a new level of realism.... 

 

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Hi David

It's all looking excellent and congratulations on the win, nice trophy and well deserved.

Eoin

 

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Thanks folks. Must admit to have been coverting that shield for the last five years. It replaced the previous 'best overall' club trophy in 2014. The latter was nice pewter cup that we think might have been a golf trophy in another life. In the beginning, this sat on a wooden base, so that little plates with the winner's name could be fixed to. However, over the years, extra layers were added to the first base until the whole thing was bigger than the cup. Managed to win the old one a few times over the years, but not the new one, until now.

 Club competitions can bring mixed feelings when just as you think you've done your 'best ever', someone else comes along with their own acme which just happens to trump yours - and there are some very talented modellers in the Chatham club! Though really just a bit of fun, with the added intention of getting people making something to bring along and share, it certainly helps improve standards too.

 

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David, 

 

Saw this and thought of you!

The Unbuilt Engineering of the Transatlantic Steamship and Railway Route via Belmullet, Co Mayo 1820-1920


On Monday 10th February 2020 at 6:30 PM in Engineers Ireland, 22 Clyde Road, Dublin 4

In this presentation Richard Butler, Lecturer in the Historic Built Environment at the University of Leicester, will focus on the unbuilt engineering of a railway from Dublin to Belmullet and the development of that town as a transatlantic steamship harbour.

In the early days of railways and steamships, many western Irish ports were suggested as suitable for making a faster and safer route between the ‘Old’ and the ‘New’ worlds – connecting Britain and North America via what would now be called an Irish ‘land-bridge’. Though Belmullet never achieved this status, it was the focus of sustained attention from engineers, hydrographers, and government commissions from the 1830s until the coming of Irish independence.


Regards,

Ken

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Weeds & other scenics

 Baseboard two is progressing:

  • Nettles - proper old school scenics here. I used Woodlands coarse fibres [see pics], cut up into short lengths. Each length is then dipped in PVA and then into some medium crumb from Greenscene, before being put aside [in an old cribbage board], to dry. A couple of hundred of these and next day, it was time for planting!
  • Next up, some work on the joint between baseboards two and three. As before, used clingfilm in the joint, before mixing fine ash ballast with neat PVA and the filling the cracks - ensuring the ground cover was level both sides. Other work on the join involved doing more static grass and foliage cover as below.
  • The front of baseboard two has been causing me a few furrowed brows recently, but as with the rear section, I've decided to keep things simple and mostly go with rough grass, brambles, etc. Hence a layer of mixed foam scatter, with static grass on top of that. Once dry, some extra depth was added with further static grass, held in place with cheap hair spray. Further layers were then added in the same way, but this time using fine scatter, mixed with yellow, white and pink granules from Woodlands. The final touch [thus far, anyway], has been to add brambles using Postiche [see pic if you don't know what this is] with hairspray and fine scatter, plus some other weeds. These are created by carefully wiping PVA over the tops of the grass fibres and then adding fine scatter on top of this, before vacuuming the whole area afterwards to remove any excess.
  • Other work has focussed on covering for the point rodding as per SLNCR in Eniskillen. 

 Meanwhile, seven small hawthorn [ish] trees have been made, hopefully to blend in with the painted back scene across baseboards two and one. The final picture should give an idea of where this is going.

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Lovely work, David. Those subtle colour highlights really lift the ground cover. And the hawthorn trees are brilliant! 

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Hawthorn trees, well yes. More like a single hawthorn this afternoon. Had got all seven finished and foliated and was carefully planting in the corner of the field. This involved drilling holes in the ground cover and somehow a stray strand of foliage got caught in the drill and barely two seconds later four of the trees were wrapped round the drill and each other...

 It was one of those shock horror occasions when you can't believe umpteen hours of work has been destroyed in just a couple of seconds.

 Since then, have managed to untangle the mess, strip off the foliage and been trying to repair the trunks and branches with a hot glue gun. It then all needs repainting and defoliating. 

 There really aren't enough rude words to describe how I feel!

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Moving on to Baseboard 1

 After significant amounts of static grass and flocking, decided it was time for something different. That's the nice thing about layout building - when you've had enough of one thing, you can change to something else.

 First though, had to untangle my hawthorn trees from  the electric drill bit [and each other], strip off the foliage and then repair the damage to the armatures with a hot glue gun, after which these needed painting again before being redressed with foliage. Thankfully it only took a morning's work before they were properly planted, as the pictures show. Still a bit of tidying up to do, but hopefully you get the idea. It was at this point that I shuffled the boards around, so I could get all round access to Baseboard 1. Hence boards 1 & 2 are now up against the end wall of the workshop, which somehow makes the scene look a lot neater than with the currently scruffy BB1 as a background.

  BB1 has been turned around so I can get to the rear - actually the old front of Arigna. What was the cattle dock is now where the goods shed and co-operative warehouse are, plus a small area of flat standing. The latter needed profiling to BB2, so there was still a bit of filler mixing and spreading to do. While I was at it, I scraped out most of the grass and weeds in the track, replacing it with more ash ballast. The idea is that, covering two periods, the track will need to be in better condition than Arigna's, though a few strands of grass can be seen poking through, which is still quite nice.

 So, on to some different modelling. Much of it has been fairly mundane, things like preparing the loading dock surfaces for the goods shed and Co-op, plus putting back the walls and stop blocks at the end of the platform. I've still got all the different castings of loads for these areas, mainly from Skytrex. Since then, I've been doing a bit of fettling on the goods shed, though the main work has been to make the pillars holding up the front of the Co-op. Vaguely Colonel H. F.  Stephens in style [I'm sure the fact that we share a name is key to my interest in minor railways], I can't vouch for any authenticity, but at least the Co-op [which is a semi-flat] now stands up on its own!

 The two back scenes have been removed of course and the last of the photos show what I'm plotting for the end board. Like all the other back scenes, it will be profiled to the scenery/buildings, with the sky painted on a second board bolted behind. However,  on this end board I want to put an impression of the town. For this, I've been toying with the idea of a bit of decoupage - where buildings are not just painted on the back scene, but appear as layers of card flats. Interestingly, at the Stevenage show in January someone was demonstrating just this, so hopefully I am heading on the right lines. The final picture gives an idea of what i'm trying to do.

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Loading docks and street scene

 This is the last area to be blocked in after the destruction wrought on the Arigna Town scenery. The idea is that there is a short loading dock for a horse box, with an end loading dock alongside for carriage truck traffic. This means certain trains will be able to drop off/pick up individual wagons, adding to operational interest. In addition the road surface, pavements and loading dock area itself all needed a fair bit of attention, meaning this took a lot more time than just doing ground cover. And a pleasant change it's made too.

The walls are all made from Wills random stone plastic sheet, sometimes double siding 5mm foam board for extra depth. Where necessary, the walls are then capped with DAS clay, before painting with acrylics. The road surface was first prepared by putting 2mm thick strips of card down the centre, to eventually create the cambers with more 2mm card to raise the pavements. 20 thou [0.5mm] plasticard was then used to create gutters, curb stones and paving slabs. Fiddly, but worth it as this area is nearest to anybody looking, so merits extra detail. A mix of filler, PVA and black acrylic was then put down for the road surface, carefully sculpting it to create a camber, while in the  loading dock yard chinchilla dust was sprinkled on the wet plaster to give a more gravelly surface.

 The yard gates are recycled from an earlier layout [never throw things like this away!], while the slope up to the end loading is made from C&L point timbers. The end terraced house is actually the Railway Inn from Arigna - a bit of a shame as the decorative front is now hidden against the back scene. Have decided this building won't be fixed down as it will foul the hawthorn trees on baseboard 2 when the boards are paired up for transport. You might also be able to see where I've added another layer of decoupage to the back scene, though, it must be said that like the rest of this area, there remains much to do. However, I find it encouraging to get areas visually complete, so I know things are starting to look right before adding the details.

 

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Edited by David Holman
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Stunning David. Your track work is also supreme.

Edited by Noel

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Can't believe it is a month since I last posted here. It's not that I haven't been busy, just that much of it doesn't seem to have got things finished. Plus we did have a nice holiday in Mojacar  [just before the virus hit], while have also been having problems with the laptop...

 Anyway, work has been focussing on Baseboard 1, the terminus end of the layout. This has involved finishing and painting the goods shed and co-op, much faffing around with track colours [still needs more], likewise the back scenes [ditto]. The pictures below really don't tell half the story, with many alterations to colours and tones, not completely to my liking yet either. However, with no reference points whatsoever due to covid19 lockdown, at least I can escape to the workshop a couple of times a day in between doing the garden, going for a walk, household chores etc. At least it helps avoid too much TV.

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