Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Prototype control panel

This is in no way the final design or finished item, but I thought I'd do a short post about my prototype control panel.

As you can see it has a lot of switches and currently 3 controllers with room for a fourth. The basic plan was to be able to control up to three trains at a time on three different parts of the layout. It's all DC rather than DCC. In simple terms DC controls the track, DCC controls the locomotives.

To allow a train to move from one track to another you need to be able to pass control of each track to the cab (the bit with the directional switch and control knob). Each track is wired through 3 switches allowing the user to select which cab controls what track or tracks.

The system isn't foolproof and because some track is shared by the outer loop and the East/West beaches it requires some form of isolation to prevent trains on different tracks running when they they shouldn't. The points provide some isolation, but not enough, so I've installed a switch to isolate part of the outer loop where a train can be parked while another uses the shred piece of track. At least that's the idea, I haven't tested that bit yet because it requires me to cut the track and I haven't been brave enough to do that yet!

Initially I thought I was going to need four switches per block of track, but it turned out I only needed three so the fourth switch is redundant part from the one that will isolate the outer loop from the shared track.

I've left space for point control on the right hand side. This will be a series of momentary switches to shift the points.

Monday, September 16, 2019


Building our model railway is about experimenting and learning. We've gone for a mixture of building styles and types with different finishes, as indeed you would find in any town with a bit of history to it.

The same can be said of fences. It would be rather flat and boring to have the same sort of fence all over the layout. So far we have three types of fence. Two have been 3D printed and one is completely handmade. One of the 3D printed fences runs along the side of the track one the east side of the layout. You can see some of it in this photograph:

The ,layout is more developed now and this fence encloses the green area. It even has a couple of gates in it for access.

The handmade fence is constructed from matchsticks and floristry wire. It's all high tech stuff here! The matchsticks need to have 1mm holes drilled through them to take the wire that is painstakingly threaded through. 3mm holes drilled in the base board at 25mm centres locate the sticks. I'll add a dab of PVA later to secure them, but they are a reasonably snug fit, so nu rush.

I've tried a couple of ways to weather them. A mixture of a burnt umber acrylic wash and the more recent batch that are currently drying have been dipped in a wood stain.

To drill the holes I lined up a whole bunch of matchsticks on a piece of double-sided tape in a small jig made from off-cuts of ply. Then a steady hand with a hand-drill and taking my time I made the holes. Some of the matchstick split, but that was okay because they could still be used and they gave the fence a more aged looked with little bits broken away.

The matchsticks I used came without the live end. you buy them for modelling purposes this way in a big bag of about 1000.

Friday, September 06, 2019

Scenery: 2

Having more or less completed the scenery on one side of the layout, it's time to turn my attention to another corner. Given that we have the inclines, there's an opportunity to experiment with different ways of disguising the hardboard support structure.

Around the bridge I simple used brick and stone effect card to give a walled finish. I've also painted the grainy side of the exposed hardboard grey to see if that looks okay. On the inside of the incline I'll use brick card again, but on the other outside edge I wanted to try and sculpt a rock type look.

Here's what I did.

First of all I used a Woodland Scenics rock mould to cast some rock face material. I've used this above my tunnel entrances on another corner of the layout. Then I used Sculptamold to provide a bed for these rocks and to fill in the gaps. As it dried I poked it with my fingers, a small paintbrush and a scalpel to blend it all together.

You can see one of the rock mould pieces picked out in grey (and there's a pile of them in the bottom right-hand corner of the photo too(. Once it had all dried I added grey by dabbing spots on the surface and then brushing out unevenly over the surface allowing bits of white to remain. I then used a black wash over the top f that.

The end result is quite a pleasing effect and the sculptamold worked really well. As it dries you can wet your hand and smooth and shape the surface. On my hillside above the tunnel I kept going like this until I got the shape and finish I was looking for before I applied static grass.
 I thought the electrics and running the trains was going to be the most interesting part of building the model railway, but experimenting with the scenery has been a lot of fun and a challenge too.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Trying my hand at scenery

It's far from finished but I thought I'd document my first attempt at doing some scenery for the model railway. The thing is I was never "good" at art at school, mainly because of my lack of colour sight always making me think I couldn't "do" art. But that that doesn't stop one being creative and although my art teacher could not comprehend the colour issue, I've found other ways to be creative that don't involve distinguishing red from green or blue from purple.

Adding scenery to the layout was always part of the deal. It began with some of the buildings about which I have already written. But what about grass and trees etc? Well, here's the progress so far.

It still need more grass adding, but I'm waiting for a better state grass applicator to arrive. For those who don't know, static grass doesn't refer to a lack of movement but the way it is applied. It uses a static charge to make the grass fibres stand up. You can do this with a plastic bottle, but that doesn't seem to have worked particularly well.

I've used a process I saw in a video by Kathy Millat, although the layering spray I bought was the same product it was not in the spray can but an aspirating type bottle which may have made a bit of a difference. I also used a puffer bottle rather than the electrostatic applicator which I have now ordered to try on the next area.

The trees came ready made from Model Scenery Supplies, as did much of the static grass. I built the embankment from PIR insulation board (Cellotex in my case). It's easy to carve and shape using a sharp kitchen knife.

Small gaps were filled with decorators caulk. On reflection a more rigid filler might have been a better choice but this was what I had lying around in the workshop.

Once that was all dry we covered it with strips newspaper and used standard PVA glue to fix it all in place.

 I wasn't too worried about making it super smooth because that wasn't the finish I wanted. I wanted something uneven and less cultivated looking.

Once dry it got a coat of poster paint to give a soil like base. Even at this stage it was looking okay although there were a few cracks that needed sorting out. I painted a few area white and grey using acrylics and washed them with a black wash to make bits of chalk face show through.

Some got covered up with grass when I forgot to avoid them with the base glue and layering spray!

Which brings me to the grass application process. As I mentioned, I didn't;t find the puffer bottle that easy to use. I ended up spraying grass fibres all over the place. That's not a big problem, but I did feel that it made getting the stuff in the right place a bit of a chore. I also found that the base glue went off very quickly. Perhaps the painted paper absorbed it too quickly and Male a base coat of PVA to seal the surface first might have helped.

In the end I'm quite pleased with how it's turning out. Having added some line-side fencing and a few tress has made this corner of the layout really come to life.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Building a bridge

 Sadly I didn't take any pictures of the process of building the bridge. A bit of an oversight given that my plan was to document the process!

Prototype bridge
It started with a simple prototype made from from 6mm MDF. Nothing more that a couple of supports and the flat bed for the track.

Once I'd figured out the height I built the bridge and added the side sections, all made from MDF.

The girders were 3D printed, primed in grey and then painted with a black acrylic wash to make them grimy.

With the girders superglued in place I set about building the walls.

These are simple card construction. The retaining walls are about 7mm thick and made from two layers of 3mm card and between two layers of brickwork card (Metcalf again). They are actually from the platform kit

I applied the red brick to the main walls first and then added the abutments.

Prototype Abutment
These are made from more MDF. I was going to 3D print them but MDF was quicker. This was a card prototype. You can see the L-shape, the shorter part sitting facing towards the track.

The retaining walls were glued to a strip of stone capping from another kit and the glued in place with the capping overhanging the retaining wall. I thought this added depth and gave it a more authentic look. They were capped off with more stone and one side I went for a slopping finish and the other has a stone end pillar.

The end result is quite pleasing and once again shows that model-making isn't as difficult as it might look. I'm still learning better ways of doing things, but as that say, this is my model railway and the only person I really need to please is myself.

Monday, August 19, 2019

A 3D printer? I can't see the point of one myself!

Well actually I can! It's a pain sometimes, but a 3D printer is a real bonus when it comes to developing my model railway. Originally I bought one (Creality Ender 3) because I wanted to explore the world of 3D printing. I had an idea and a 3D printer was an obvious part of the solution to the problem I was trying to solve.

I started to play with some design ideas for the workshop and then when the model railway began to take shape it really came into its own. I've printed parts for models (doors and roof vents for example), small items (milk churns and oil drums) and trackside fencing. I've also printed a church, chimney pots, stove pipes, bridge sections and garden sheds. Quite a collection.

Some I've designed myself, some I've downloaded from thingiverse. Here's a little gallery of some of the things I've printed.

Stove pipe and roof vents for disused carriage

Country Church

Chimney stack and doors. 

Oil drums and milk churns

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Small Factory Unit Build

When I printed the church there was a large piece of waste from the the supporting structure the 3D printer produces to support the overhanging parts of the print.

Initially it was head for the recycling bin but then I thought I must be able to do something with it. So it sat around for a while and then I thought about Turing into a building of some sort. I settled on a factory and began to work out what to do.

The first thing to do was to glue the two pieces together to give the basic shape of a building with a chimney.

Most of the factories I remember from my childhood had whitewashed windows. To make these I decided to paint the window area quite roughly before adding the walls with window cutouts.

I used some Metcalf red brick card and wrapped the building. On the chimney I made a layer of engineering brick and then overlaid the join with some roof material that came with the brick card.
A factory obviously needs doors and a roof. I'd bought the rusty corrugated panels and roof lights already because I wanted to use them on the aggregates works. On that build I used superglue but it wasn't the easiest way to glue them place (although they are fine). This time I tried epoxy resin and that has worked quite well and it has the advantage that you don't accidentally end up sticking your fingers together!

A bit more 3D printing and we had the chimney top and some doors.

To finish off I added some barge boards and some guttering and a downpipe. A little more weathering and this is how a waste piece of plastic became a factory.