Wednesday 15 May 2013

Smack the "Pony"...

   This is another project born out of my desire to do an extremely complex bit of photography, and having neither the budget nor the resources to pull it off.  Basically, this is a development of my “Inter-City” project from last year, produced for the “Dromology” open call at the South Square gallery, which was a slightly abstract night-time rail journey through a city.  Not being able to get into the cab of a real train to get the pictures, I built a camera rig on an 0 gauge coach chassis, and cobbled together a set from odds and ends.  Keeping with the theme, but exploring it further, I want to replicate a shot I saw in a magazine a while ago, and I cannot remember the photographer…  It showed an American diesel loco seen from the cab of another loco coupled in front, so the camera was travelling at the same speed as the train; in effect, it was a lovely, moody shot of a train in focus with the surroundings blurred by motion.
   Now in order to replicate such a shot in real life, I would need to either arrange to be on a train travelling at speed a few feet in front of the ‘target’ train, or go to somewhere like the Welshpool and Llanfair where they have balcony coaches, and not mind that it would be a shot of a train travelling away from the camera and not towards it.  So, the usual solution then, do it with miniatures, and have the camera rig towing a model train along at speed.

   A quick check showed though that using 0 gauge trains wasn’t going to work due to the height of the camera compared to the size of the trains, which meant larger trains were needed.  And the mission-creep effect of this problem meant that I would then need to buy a larger gauge of train track, larger trains, and thus it would commit the capitol crime for one of my experimental projects, and cost money.  Or I could go down the narrow gauge route, which for those of you not wearing anoraks can be basically defined as big trains on rails that are narrower than ‘normal’ railways.

   As I mentioned in the last blog post, this is basically going to be a nod to the locomotive that had a fairly large influence on my becoming a railway enthusiast/ nerdy shut-in, the Ffestiniog loco “Welsh Pony”.  Said loco stopped working on the Ffestiniog in the 1930's, and by the 80's/90's was displayed on a plinth up at Porthmadog station, allowing people to clamber all over it.  Which I duly did whenever visiting Porthmadog during holidays.  Being very fond of this locomotive, and being as it has finally just been cosmetically restored for the 150th anniversary of steam haulage on the railway, it seemed fitting to do a model of it. 

   Anyway, to the model…  Being as I am working on a budget, and this was more about creating a striking, experimental image rather than an award-winning scale model.  Starting from the requirement to have a powered chassis, I’ve attacked some of the stock of 0 gauge battery-powered toy locos bought for the Britannia Model Village project.  These cheap and cheerful toys formed the majority of the stock for the model railway, and were converted heavily for that project.  One of them will form the basis of “Welsh Pony”.

The chassis is 6 coupled, and was therefore stripped down and had a wheelset removed.  My attempts to build slightly more accurate pistons and rods was abandoned due to the first attempt causing the wheels to jam and a motor to burn out.  It also occurred to me that moving at speed, the wheels would be blurring anyway so it didn’t matter too much.

   An early plan to build the body separate was found to be a bit impractical due to how the batteries are held in place on the chassis, so I’m building around the plastic loco body.  Working on the usual budget of nothing, the saddle tank has been formed around a gravy tub, clad in thin card.  The majority of the bodywork is being built up in mountcard and foamboard.  By a happy coincidence, the gravy tub has worked out as being about right in proportion compared to the wheels and chassis.  I like it when a plan comes together… 

With the saddle tank attached to the body, the smokebox was then built up around a length of cardboard tube, and the cab from reinforced mountcard, both built up around their respective parts of the original donor loco body.  Access into the cab has needed to be maintained to change batteries, so the back doors of the cab have been modelled open. 

   The smokebox presented a significant issue, in that I struggled for some time to find a suitable door- by one of those freaks of coincidence which has somewhat characterised this build, the perfect slightly dish-shaped door was actually discovered whilst hunting through the bits-box; its the transparent plastic lens from a push-button LED torch.

   The cab was estimated in size, compared to the rest of the proportions of the saddletank and smokebox.  I did manage to make a bit of a cock of this, and had to re-draw and cut a modified version.  Its made from mountcard, and reinforced with foamboard on the inside edges.  The rear doors of the cab are rather wider than on the real loco, a compromise dictated by the size of the batteries that need to be accessed through the cab. 

   So this is the state the loco is in at the moment...  Needs a lot more detailing and tidying, not to mention the construction of the tender.  Updates as it progresses...

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