Wednesday 25 April 2012

I Like Trains :)

   A few years ago I ended up having a hilariously long and laborious bout of dental surgery done, removing wonky teeth, wisdom teeth, other teeth, and generally making my life a misery ("by the way, did we mention that if we nick this nerve here whilst we're operating, theres a small but very real chance you'll lose all control of your lower jaw for the rest of your life? Right, Jolly Good, lets get on with it then...").  Because the work was being done in the Birmingham Dental Hospital, it meant I was effectively house-bound for over a week at my parents house, without the ability to really go out and do much, eat, drink and so on.  So in an effort to relieve boredom and give myself something to do, I decided to build a model railway in a week from the various bits and pieces lying around in old boxes around my room from when I was younger.  I was very much into model railways when I was younger, but generally put it aside in my early teens to avoid giving the bullying bastards at school any more ammunition... though as a speccy spotty sci-fi nerd, I suspect they had plenty to be going on with anyway without needing to call me a trainspotter.
   At this point I should mention that despite an interest in railway photography, trains, and all things miniatures, I have a bit of a problem with finishing projects, which is why I have never in fact completed a model railway (the only stuff I ever seem to finish are models built for projects with actual deadlines).  The above shot is from the only railway I've ever managed to get to near-finished condition, something I built whilst at Uni so I could try miniatures photography with a new camera.  But, with little else to do on this week of dentistry hell, I set to work...

 The baseboards were offcuts from the scenic diaromas built for the Britannia Model Village exhibition in Birmingham (Jan 09).  Scenic bits came from the various boxes of junk that anyone making miniatures ends up collecting.  I dont think it was too bad for a weeks work really, and it kept me sane.

 At this point in my life however I was technically living in Yorkshire (staying with the family of my then-fiance, now-wife Amy), and after the dentistry was done and I could chew solid food again, I ended up going back to the north.  And obviously I couldnt carry these train layouts on a real train back to Yorkshire, so no doubt to my parents delight, my old bedroom ended up filled with yet more junk whilst I buggered off back up North.
   Nothing else was done with this layout, and indeed it stayed gathering dust until me and Amy finally won our battle against the UK Economy and the Treasury, and fooled Fate into letting us get a house of our own.  My parents were (naturally enough) sick of the fact my old room was filled to the rafters with half built model kits and old toys, rendering it unusable as a guest room, so they drove up one weekend with the car filled with this stuff.  Having filled our new spare room in Yorkshire with the resultant delivery of 20-odd years of my life, and having a desperate need to clear said room for guests, I then ended up taking the decision to dismantle this railway.  Not least because I also needed to canibilise parts for the Steampunk project I was by now getting into.  These snapshots then represent the only visual record of the model anyway- I shot these the day I broke the models up for parts, just quickly rushing outside to get a few pics inbetween the rain.

   In hindsight seems a bit of a shame, as with a little photoshop jiggery-pokery (tecnhical term) the model looks half decent.  Might build something a bit bigger and better for photography purposes soon, depending on how much I think Amys patience will hold up with me filling the house with yet more models...

Wednesday 18 April 2012

Abandoned-ish Project: Dreadnought "Britannia"

You see Mister Prime minister? You see?! THIS is what happens when a nerd ends up Long-Term Unemployed... with access to foam board, card, and Battlestar Galactica DVD’s.

This was part of a speculative commission (in my limited and mediocre defence); an artist I knew wanted collaborators for a space-based comic, and after I mentioned that I did stuff with miniatures, she wanted to see some sort of evidence. So a plan to build and shoot a model space ship emerged, and I set to work with foamboard and scalpel.

The inspirations are equal parts Battlestar and the little-known, but fantastic 80’s Japanese kids TV puppet series “Starfleet X-Bomber” (I say kids tv show, but it had a fairly staggering amount of death, destruction, and violence). This gem was something I grew up watching, fondly remembered, and tracked down on DVD recently. Look it up on Youtube, look beyond the cheesy voiceovers, and marvel at the miniature effects instead, which is what I always tended to do.

The problem that started it all- the Hangar Pod with functional lighting and interior...

The original configuration, before the stepped-neck was added, which also contibuted to making the rest of the model that bit longer and more unwieldy...

As most of my projects do, this one suffered a degree of what our American friends call Mission-Creep (or the “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie, Then He’ll Want…” effect). Being lazy, to avoid having to build a separate hangar-bay set, I decided to make an interior for each of the hangar pods. The size of these was dictated by the size of the interior lighting- all I could afford on a budget of about nothing was some poundworld LED push-lights, about the size of a coaster. I then ended up having to scale the body of the ship to match the hangar pods. Which meant that the nose had to be scaled to match the body. The mad plan then formed to have some degree of internal illuminations for the fuselage, nose, and engines- so poundland LED torches were bought, which dictated the size of the engine pods and other parts. By this time the decision was also taken to have the model constructed from parts which could slot together, allowing it to dismantle down into pieces that were easier to store (a rare nod towards practicality for one of my builds- given that I don’t have the massive shed/lockup/aircraft hanger that miniatures builds often require).

This led to the main problem- with the model being constructed in sections, without properly realising it until it was too late I ended up with a huge foamcard model that was about 3 and bit foot long when assembled, heavy, unwieldy, and which would have been next to impossible to hang up from wires and shoot, assuming I could have found anywhere to actually shoot it. By this time the artist I was wanting to work with announced she had abandoned the space comic anyway, making the whole excersie a collosal waste of time.

So the thing was relegated to the cellar, and abandoned as a cock-up. If anything I was embarrassed that I’d wasted a lot of time building something like this (despite the fact this was meant to be my “hour a day to calm myself down after job hunting” remedy, the Job Centre put much effort into making me feel incredibly guilty that I wasn’t spending every waking moment job hunting… and I only dared mention photography to them once, and was told “that’s just wasting time, photography will never get you a real job in an office or kitchen!”. Not that I’m still wound up about my time signing-on or anything…).

Back to the model- finally last year it was dismantled and stripped for parts, mainly because having moved out of their house a while after construction stopped, I suspected my In-Laws patience with bits of half built model kits cluttering their place up would seriously strain our family relationship.

Not the end of the saga though- being a massive Red Dwarf/UFO/Space 1999 fan, I still fancy having a go at doing spaceship pics, so am rebuilding the Dreadnought design to a much more manageable scale recycling some of the parts- I have a desire to actually do some miniatures photography with spaceships this autumn. However, all models will be built to a more suitable scale. Lesson learned. Hopefully.

Its quite sad that as I type this, I’ve learned of the death of Peter Wragg. An experienced Visual Effects… well genius to be frankly honest, his work with miniatures on shows like Thunderbirds and especially Red Dwarf got me hooked on this sort of miniatures build in the first place. RIP.