Tuesday 22 October 2019

Oh we do like to be beside the seaside...

This was a mini-project built in less than a week, to hit a tight deadline.  British Railway Modelling/ RMWeb run a regular competition where you build what is known as a 'Cakebox' layout/diorama, so called because it should fit in an 8-inch cube cakebox.  The theme for this one was Holidays.

Back before the summer holidays I came up with the plan to do a scene on a miniature railway (I've visited loads this year for photography work), and doodled some plans... then the bats took up residence in the loft meaning I couldn't get at my model making bits, real life kept happening, and I didn't get round to building it.  But then I really, really needed a quick distraction, stress-relieving project in September, and decided to see if I could build it in a rush.  Which I did.

The Plan

I wanted a run-down, 90's seaside railway based on memories of a few I visited as a child, the sort of attraction which had limped-along since the glory days of the 60's, but was in a traditional seaside resort struggling to stay relevant in the 90's.  A quick sketch was done in July...

...then needed to be modified somewhat come September when I decided (for time constraint purposes) to re-use bits from the 1/32nd Britannia Model Village project.  You can't get as much into a scene in G-scale, so I had to drop some features.

As an ex-DT Technician, I'm a little embarrassed by the standard of carpentry on show, but I was trying to do this zero-budget using scraps, and built in a rush.

More poor carpentry, but also another time-saving technique on show; I didn't have time to varnish the water, but because it would be a still pool, I just painted the board and covered it in a bit of thin acrylic reclaimed from a broken picture frame.

Landform was from packing foam, stonework the sheets which came with the bridge kit (which would form the centrepiece), and lollipop sticks/pine stripwood all the other bits.  A concrete retaining wall was a broken length of Peco N gauge platform, and the platform itself was a broken bit of Airfix station platform.  That's a lot of times I've typed platform.

Once a load of filler had been spread on, a wash of brown and grey paint was put over everything (after the river had been masked).  Working to the tight deadline, the filler had been cooked somewhat over the tumble drier but was still a bit damp in places as the paint went on...

The focal centrepiece was a bridge, rebuilt from a reclaimed Wills kit, with taller railings from a toy soldier set.

Figures were an issue; for budget/time reasons I was using the old Britains Farm figures from the Britannia project; cheap and easy to modify, but even at the British seaside you don't get many people wearing wellies on the beach...

Equally for budget reasons, the trains would be some old battery-operated, roughly TT-scale toys (which were chopped about a bit already for the Britannia Model Village project).  They were hacked about a bit more, and modified with scrap bits.

The Model

To disguise the slightly rushed (e.g, still-drying filler) build, everything was smothered in sand, which did at least fit with the atmosphere of a neglected seaside railway.  Long grasses were paintbrush bristles.

Still, at least it was finished in time, which was a relief.

Photographing the model was a bit of a sod; having had a nice day on the Saturday whilst I was still building it, the Sunday (last day of the competition), it was a wet, murky, horrible day.  Happily, Amy had a large photograph of Beddgelert which she took a few years back, and which graces our wall, so I could use that as a backdrop...

Yep, Bat Summer Party.  And my legs are that terrifyingly pale in real life.

We still have the bats in the loft, as I type this.  But then in real life we've been too tight and Northern to put the heating on, so they've not had the discomfort of being too hot, and are probably hibernating up there now.

I didn't win the competition in the end; not surprising, it was my first go at a Cakebox model and there were some very nice entries by more accomplished model-makers.  But it served the purpose of being a distraction project, and I was amazed I managed to complete it in time.  It's certainly tempted me to want to build something bigger on the same theme.

What's that you say?  They've announced another Cakebox challenge for the winter?
To the drawing board!

Thursday 19 September 2019

Project: Steampunk Jabberwock

Today on the blog, the Steampunk Jabberwock...  As with the last post, it's featured in a mag so I won't go into as much nauseating detail on the blog as I'd originally planned.  A longer bit of comic though to make up for it, and to explain an issue which is affecting my current workload...

Garden Rail chose to feature an article on the first of my planned series of models of trains inspired by the Alice in Wonderland/Through The Looking Glass books, the concept itself directly inspired by one of the abandoned ideas for the Jabberwock sculpture I built for the show at Rydal Hall a few years back.

The idea was a rail-borne crane which looked suitably monster-like from various angles, but whilst I liked the railway design, it was more practical for the full sculpture to do something on caterpillar tracks.  But I had built a few models to test the different ideas, and I thought I'd rework the garden railway-scale model I built...

...but a few years in store had left it a bit knackered (to use the technical term).

I used the opportunity to knock up a slightly better design, which paid a bit more attention towards practicality than the original design did.

Because it was going to be primarily designed for the great outdoors, I chose to make it a bit more heavy-duty than I might normally, so out came the plywood...

...and then, on this solid base, a mad collection of bits and pieces.  Model kit and toy parts, plumbing fittings, pens, garden wire, you name it.

A heavy spray with black, then dusting with browns and greys, bought it all together.

Trying to go for the spooky atmosphere, but the bad weather delayed shooting the model and when I finally managed to get a free day outdoors to shoot the pictures, the greenery was much in evidence.  No spooky skeletal dead trees here, annoyingly.

Then a little later, when Garden Rail showed an interest, I knew I'd have to shoot some more pics, and thought I could fit in a shoot whilst in Wales.

A bad drive there though meant that the model suffered a bit from the Welsh country roads, so it needed some fixing.

Nice bright weather, and lots of greenery.  In hindsight I think if anything the more bright and colourful backdrop (as opposed to the planned dead and spooky option) is a better contrast.

I also planned a night shoot using the smoke generators from the Engine Shed project, which would need working eyes/lamps.  Whilst I had built the miniature with working lamps (using Christmas Tree lights), an annoyingly inaccessible wiring fault meant a last minute replacement was needed, in the shape of these micro torches.

Seemed to do the trick.

Yep, genuinely; I'd planned, and part-built, three more models for the Alice build, and then back in May, a roost of bats moved in to the attic where all the models are kept.

So there's the problem, and the reason why I'm not putting work-in-progress builds, but just putting older builds on this blog... supposedly the 43+ bats (yep, stood outside one night with a glass of wine counting them emerge from the end of the roof) should be moving on to winter quarters soon, so say The Bat People from the Bat Conservation Trust, so I'll get access back to the models.

In theory.  They're still up there as I write this.

Oh and I struggled to sort out scaling the bats, so just borrowed a toy off Elder Child.  The real bats are pretty large, mind, particularly when you've not realised they're up there one June morning, and they start to crawl down the wall to glare and hiss at you.

Next time; depends on if the bats leave or not.  Might be another older project...