Friday, 26 February 2021

Developing The Plot

 Development of the right hand corner of my Burghmire diorama continues in a very tentative, touchy-feely kind of way. Covid travel restrictions make it impossible to visit Burghmire - except of course in my imagination. Unfortunately, I am having problems with the PC that my image processing software runs on, so the images below are straight from the camera. Hopefully they do give a reasonable representation of what has been achieved so far.

I am trying to model the old part of town, enclosed by what is left of the old town wall. A slum clearance scheme allowed the tramway to encroach on this space, but some of the old buildings remain. All of the buildings so far are made from kits, but are slowly being modified - often quite drastically -  to create the kind of atmosphere I yearn for.

 In the first image, you see the two latest additions. On the left, the dark brown building is made from parts of a Knightwing church kit, which has some nicely moulded medieval windows. I have only just started putting this together, so there is much yet to be done. There will, for example be a stone base and a few stone buttresses to make the exterior more interesting. The half-timbered building on the right is a kit I bought on eBay, ready-made. I think it is perfect for the location. Both buildings have been raised up above baseboard level, as I want the ground surfaces to slope down towards the camera and to the right. The narrow alley to the right of the half-timbered building already has stone steps installed leading up to higher ground. Nothing is fixed in place yet, so I can still make minor adjustments to angles and heights. I shall probably lower both buildings very slightly, as they I think they sit a bit high at the moment. I shall make an impression of an underpass to link the arch in the background with the imaginary lower town behind the camera. This would maintain the right of way otherwise destroyed when the tramway was built.

The second image shows the loco shed and (to its left) the red brick goods shed. The goods shed bears very little resemblence to the kit it was made from. The loco shed will require lots of interior detail. The town wall will extend towards the camera in largely fallen-down form. I shall have to scratchbuild most of this. I shall probably use embossed stone outer faces, with broken-off expanded polystyrene to represent the inner rubble filling.

The third photo shows the face of the short, low station platform in the foreground. The buildings behind are all set at slightly different angles, so that the gaps between them taper from the front to the back. This exaggerates the distance to the back of the layout.

For the next photo, I have added the overall roof of the station, temporarily supported to give an impression of its final height. It gives a better view of the heavy modifications made to the archway building in the background.

And finally, a satellite image showing the scene. The dome on the tower in the background is because the structure is now a domestic dwelling, having long forsaken any defensive capability. As with all the other buildings, the kit has been modified - this time with windows, an extra door and a different staircase to that provided in the kit.



 Although progress is very slow, I am really enjoying making these buildings. My brain seems to work far better adapting existing kits than starting everything from scratch. I am beginning to regret putting so much track down, as otherwise I would have room for far more buildings 😉


Tuesday, 26 January 2021

Real Estate

 Things didn't go to plan (do they ever?), but spare time indoors due to bad weather and a sudden rush of enthusiasm are slowly bringing rewards.

Last time, I said I would concentrate on stock for Burghmire for a while, but that never really happened. Mum passed away at the end of October, just before her 94th birthday. This and several other issues brought modelling almost to a halt. Things are moving again now though, following a couple of key decisions about the layout.

The original deadline for the 2mm Scale Association's Diamond Jubilee Layout Competition (DJLC) was pretty tight, especially if the baseboards, stock and the scenery were to be started from scratch. This deadline has already been extended by 12 months because of Covid and may yet be extended even further. 

The original deadline made me decide to use my small array of BR stock, with a few minor additions, for the DJLC event itself. Only afterwards would I start building custom stock, which would likely occupy a lot of time. Logically, I would therefore have to make Burghmire look typically 'British' so that the BR stock would not look out of place. I recently added a couple of BR railcars to fill a noticeable gap - a Dapol Class 121 'Bubblecar' and a Farish GWR Railcar. Both are very quick and easy conversions.

Trying to find the atmosphere of a typical, but mildly eccentric British town occupied much time. As I have explained before, the scenery around Wantage (the station Burghmire is based upon) would not have worked very well. Whilst the station area itself is cramped and crowded, the scenery immediately around it, as would be accommodated on my small baseboard, would totally lack atmosphere.

I spent months procrastinating; browsing books and the Internet, trying to find the kind of scenes and buildings I craved, but with only mixed success. I really needed backstreet views and the backs of buildings, when old photos almost always show the fronts of buildings and the better parts of town. One rare but good example I did find of the kind of thing I was looking for was the Archcliffe Brewery in Dover, long demolished.

Cliff's Archcliffe Brewery circa 1912.http://www.dover-kent.com/Pictures/Archliffe-Brewery-01.jpg

Even if I found the combination of buildings I fancied, I would only achieve results by spending a very long period of intensive scratchbuilding. This was compounded by the thought that I might someday extend Burghmire onto another baseboard. I desperately needed a way of (a) eliminating the timeless, never-ending quest for ideas and (b) drastically reducing the amount of time it would take to make the buildings, once I had decided what to build. At my modelling speed, every little bit helps!

The best answer seems to be to use kits, which cuts down the options quite severely, especially if I choose buildings that go well together. It also (hopefully) speeds up the production process. I enjoy working in plastic, which cuts down the possibilities even further - especially if I eliminate the not so good ones. Many Kestrel kits, for example, just don't look right to me at all. Plastic kits allow mixing and matching and also major surgery to suit awkward sites etc. - or at lease that's the theory!

 So here's a couple of views of where I've got so far...

 


I went for the half-timbered approach, even though it looks a little Continental. Everything is only roughly placed in position so far and all will require a lot of customisation to fit properly into the scene. At least it's a way forward - and with a bit of work, should produce a charming scene, full of atmosphere (I hope!)

As for stock, thoughts are moving more and more towards building a unique collection of unusual vehicles. Having taken the plunge to make Burghmire's townscape so different, I may as well just get on with building some quirky and interesting stock. Here are a couple of examples...

I am experimenting with a couple of bodies adapted from Model Power Brill trams, modified to represent imaginary tramway coaches for the Burghmire Tramway. This one is plonked onto a temporary chassis for the photo. I shall be assembling some 2mm Association 4-wheeled chassis kits for them soon.

Then there are these Oxford CMP trucks, just crying out to be put on rails don't you think?...


There really was a prototype for these, on the Indian railways - though to 5ft 6in gauge, rather than 4ft 8.5 inches. I am not sure if I have the courage to try and motorise them. I guess I could just fit 2FS wheels and use a motorised wagon to push them. Either way, they are just right for my vision of what Burghmire should be all about ;)

Lots more ideas in the pipeline. Just be patient - very patient!

Sunday, 25 October 2020

Lapsang Souchong and Other Teas

Not much to report this month – spilt tea and lots of procrastination. But all in a good cause!

Firstly, I stained the ballast to ‘blend’ it in to the surroundings. A bit of a pun there, as I used the liquid from spent teabags. The lightweight filler I used is absorbent, so the colour soaks in nicely. The Lapsang Souchong also gave a mild, smoky smell to the layout - if only briefly.

I shall do no more colouration for the time being, as more white filler will need to be applied once the buildings and platforms have been added. Only then can I begin the serious colouration. The soaking properties of the filler mean that I can use subtle washes, rather than solid paint – hopefully preserving the texture for all to see. At least I have toned down the glaring white look for now. The golden brown of the tea blends in nicely with the surrounding plywood.

 
Procrastination has largely been concentrated on what stock to run on the layout. The fallback position has always been to run British Rail diesel era locos and railcars. That would be problematic for purists, as the Wantage Tramway (which Burghmire is loosely based upon) wasn’t a railway in the strict legal British sense. It operated under different rules and regulations. No signalling, no facing point locks, no one-engine-in-steam rules etc. - quite apart from the supposedly lightweight trackwork, tight clearances and tight curves that would prohibit most BR locomotives and passenger stock in real life.

Equally problematic would be creating reliable, realistic working models of almost all the motive power that actually ran on the real Wantage Tramway. The exception is the Grantham Tram, a double-deck, steam powered passenger-carrying tram which would be plenty large enough to power and weight adequately for reliable running. All other motive power was extremely diminutive. I have absolutely no intention of even beginning to think how to recreate these locomotives in 2mm scale, never mind getting them to run reliably and be able to pull trains!


In any case, Burghmire isn’t supposed to be Wantage, even though Wantage is the original inspiration. It is an open book waiting to be filled with whatever I deem appropriate and viable. With that in mind, I shall try a number of ideas over the next few months. I have a few commercial chassis to exploit, including a few examples of the diminutive Arnold Kof which I have successfully converted to 2mm finescale in the past...

Arnold N - HN2002 - Diesel locomotive - Kof II - DB - Catawiki 

...and a few other types. I have also ordered a few oddball railcar bodies from Shapeways, amongst other things. The plan is to experiment with these over the next few months, turning down wheels, adapting commercial chassis and doing a bit of scratchbuilding.

There isn't room to work on the layout and use my workspace as a workshop at the same time, so the layout will have to be put away for a while. This blog is really about work on the layout, rather than the stock. That means I shall not be doing much in the way of updates here for the foreseeable future. No doubt the stock will appear on the layout in due course, when I can give a summary of what I have achieved - successful or otherwise ;)

Sunday, 27 September 2020

Selective Snow

Scenic work has started with the ballasting. Not the usual style though. Burghmire requires a rather more primitive interpretation of the term than is usually applied. In the early days, Wantage looked quite neat, using ash or similar to give a nice smooth surface. This was when the line used longitudinal sleepers.

In later days, conventional sleepers were used. Latterly the 'ballasting' and the general appearance of the site looked very untidy. The ballast material was still very fine though, nothing like the granite chips we normally see on model railways.

Sleepers are almost completely hidden. There are also piles of ash and other stuff, which add considerably to the atmosphere. Therefore, the ballasting requires its own dedicated modelling exercise, integrated to some degree with the surrounding scenery.

I decided to use lightweight filler as the main material. This not only has the advantage of being very light, but is also easier to work when wet or dry than the gritty, hard alternatives. The first stage was to push an excess of the filler down between the rails. I found that a finger worked best for this. I then used an improvised plastic tool to scrape out the excess. This was made from the spacer on some wall plugs. This was just the right width to fit between the rails. Made of slippery plastic, it was easy to clean with water.

I also used various other metal and plastic tools to scrape the filler out of flangeways and the rail web. Even when dry, the filler is easily worked with files, saw blades and knife blades. There is still quite a bit of work to do, but I am very pleased so far with what I have achieved.

As can be seen from the above photo, I also installed an ash pit outside what will eventually be the loco shed. I wasn't going to bother when I originally laid the track, but recently changed my mind. I applied epoxy adhesive to the outer ends of the sleepers to make absolutely sure they would stay in place. I then used a circular saw attached to a mini drill to cut out the slot between the rails. I made a box out of plasticard and stuck it firmly in place. The epoxy will eventually be hidden under a representation of ash and coal dust. As most of the track is surrounded or covered with platform edges and buildings, the final detailing of the ballast will have to wait a while. 

Talking of scenery, much thought has been going into what Burghmire should look like. As far as the railway buildings go, Wantage works OK. The surroundings don't really fit well though. This map extract shows what I mean. The front of the layout is at the top. As you can see, the back of the layout (bottom of the map) would on the whole be a vast nothingness, with little or no atmosphere.


The plan is to tighten up the railway boundary as much as possible at the rear to give the layout a far more claustrophobic atmosphere. I plan to install a tall wall at the back, close enough to the track to allow some low relief buildings behind. I found some wall components on eBay, including pillars from China and brick wall components from Auhagen. They are supposedly HO scale, but actually scale quite well for 2mm scale. The photo below shows roughly where the walls would go - though I shall adjust the height of the walls and the spacing of the pillars.

I have also made a mock up of the loco shed and goods shed from card. I shall have to reduce the dimensions of the goods shed slightly to get it to fit, but I should be able to model the loco shed pretty much as it was at Wantage, though with styling differences.

I thinking of doing the train shed over the platform in the same style as the boundary walls too. I found this delightful photo of a station in Mexico where the main pillars are similar in style to the model ones I have bought. All with the aim of giving Burghmire its own distinctive atmosphere.




Monday, 14 September 2020

On A Roll

 I am suddenly in the mood for modelling again! More wiring has been done, including board 3 and the uncoupling magnets on board 2.

The 3rd board (non-scenic) has just one track and no accessories, so the wiring is very simple. Here is a view from the operating side...

...and underneath

I added a 6-pin socket to maintain consistency with the other boards. Technically, none are required at the moment, but it provides a bit of future-proofing.

Here is a view of the underside of the main board. A problem with a very small baseboard is finding enough space for all the wiring, which in my case is necessarily little less than would be required for a far larger baseboard. Again, the 6-pin socket wiring (hanging loose in the photo) is largely superfluous at the moment - just one wire in use connecting a point frog on the man board with the switch controlling the point blades which is on the main fiddle yard board.

I shall tidy up the wiring a little bit, which shouldn't take too long. The only problem found so far is intermittent connectivity on one of the turntable rails. I shall need to look into that. Otherwise, everything is working as expected, which is quite a relief.

I am more or less ready to begin the scenery. The track layout is inspired by Wantage, but the station surroundings there are not ideal. I plan to site railway buildings similar to those at Wantage in their real places. The rest though will have to be substantially different, to create some kind of atmosphere. More on that another time.


Friday, 11 September 2020

Electricity!

 Progress on the electrics continues with batteries,wires and switches, amongst other things.

On the fiddle yard, I have now finished revising the electrics for the turntable. The battery holder from the Kitwood kit has been replaced by one originally designed to hold 3 batteries. This has been adapted so that 2 batteries can be used alternately, rather than simultaneously. One battery at a time noticeably slows the rotation of the turntable, which is a big improvement. With 2 separate batteries, I can switch from one battery to the other in the middle of an exhibition if necessary, without having to physically replace a discharged battery with a charged one straight away.

 Operating the turntable now requires 3 switches. A DPDT switch controls the direction of rotation, with a centre off. A slide switch is used to select which battery to use to power the rotation. Finally, another DPDT switch reverses the polarity of the rails. A red dot has been painted on the turntable to show which switch position should be selected. Complicated, but it requires only simple components! I have also installed a 6-way socket at the extreme left of the shelf as I now require more than just track power to be transmitted between baseboards.

On the main baseboard, I have installed the shelf. I have added a 6-way socket to match the one on the fiddle yard board. They will be connected by a jump lead. Also added are blue push button switches for the 4 uncoupling magnets.

 
 
The uncoupling magnets have been fitted to the underside of the baseboard. I am waiting for some diodes before I finish wiring these.

Next, I shall probably turn my attention to wiring etc. for the third baseboard.


Friday, 4 September 2020

Movement!

 The scenic board is now fully wired with working turnouts. Here is a short video - sorry about the long pause at the start.


I am particularly pleased with how well the loco traverses the single blade point near the start of the video. I had been a little worried about how well it would work. Here it is in close-up on the right of the photo. I did it this way to avoid awkward soldering. No one will notice the omission of one of the point blades from a typical viewing distance.

And here is the complete board. Just a shelf to add at the back now, like on the fiddle yard board.

I also need to add some uncoupling magnets. Then, the electrics will be more or less finished.