Friday 27 March 2020

Industrial Action...

Wow, been a while hasn't it?  So for the first post in a while, tonight I'm going to post another entry in the Cakebox Challenge railway modelling competition held over on RMWeb (the railway modelling forum)…  And yeah, I'm still doing the comic for these blogs as it helps me to relax...

Yeah, so the joys of Coronavirus lockdown, eh?  On the plus side, more time to get some projects done.  On the downside, risk of imminent illness and death, and stuck indoors.  Suddenly the shelf of Zombie movies doesn't look like entertainment or an indulgence, but research on how bad things might get, but I digress.  Back to the blogging;

To be fair, I have genuinely been doing a lot of work lately and so neglected the blog, this enforced Remain Indoors time should at least make me get on with things, and doing a bit more building...

So, the theme of this round of the challenge was "Industry".  I decided to do a slightly stylised approach to creating an industrial tramway scene in the West Midlands in the 80's, taking some inspiration from Langley Green and Oldbury where I grew up, with a healthy dose of the imagination.  I also decided to build on the methods I used with the Engine Shed project and use the USB-powered humidifiers, and some xmas tree lights, to create an atmospheric, foggy, night-time scene.

Rather than do a scale drawing, I thought with a build of this small size I could just crack-on and plan things full size using scraps and bits from the spares box.

The venerable Airfix Pug loco made the ideal focal point for the model... mine is an inherited piece which came from a long-deceased relative- I really like the model, and wanted to give it a starring role in a project.

Using yet more scraps of wood for the low-level, disused canal; never throw anything anyway...

The walls on the towpath used Wills brick sheet, and the lintel for the bridge parapets came from old Peco platform ramps.

The canal itself was made in the same way as the river on the Miniature Railway cakebox build; black and brown paint under a sheet of acrylic.  The whole lower level was painted in various shades of browns and greys, then a wash of black paint was sloshed over it all.

I wanted inset track in cobbles... one way of doing it is to use clay, and imprint the cobblestones.  A quicker way was to cut-up a damaged Hornby level crossing, and use embossed plastic sheet for the surface.

I wanted to create a jumbled, slightly chaotic scene with lots of odd angles and diagonals, which would principally use Dapol buildings because they're nice, and also cheap, and can be flexibly cut-up and rebuilt to make new buildings.  However, because most of the kits are six decades old, Dapol use a soft plastic to preserve the moulds, so lights would shine through.  Therefore I raided the scraps box again, for 3mm MDF.

The buildings were cut apart and remounted, with holes drilled and filed out of the MDF for the windows and doors.  The buildings mainly used the Station, Engine Shed, Footbridge, and Signal Box kits, or at least bits and pieces of them.

The buildings were sprayed in black then drybrushed in the same browns and greys as the canal towpaths.

The buildings were all made removable for painting and fitting the lights, which were a cheap set of LED Christmas tree lights.  Well, I was making this model in December, so it seemed fitting.

A locomotive was going to be a struggle, I didn't really model in 00 at this point and only had some old childhood models, aside from what Younger Child has.  A test with some of my old models showed it would need to be a relatively small locomotive, and it would work best if lights could be fitted too.

After some faffing around with various options, I ended up digging this ancient, and non-working Triang Dock Shunter out of a box of spares; the dead motor was gutted to make way for two micro LED torches, and it was given a quick repaint.  It had the looks I was after (despite loosely being an American prototype), it could pass for a 50's diesel shunter limping along into the 80's, in the employ of a dying business.

Having created a very limited colour palette, I started adding the odd splash of brighter colours; leaking chemicals/oil in the old canal (something I remembered from childhood in the real canal in Langley), the doors, the signs, a fox to run along the towpath in some shots. 

I also added a little bit of greenery, growing out of the disused bits of the works, to give a hint of the decay and neglect of a place on it's last legs.  The streetlights were a late addition, a bargain find in a clearance bin at Frizinghall Models, simply wired to run off a 9V battery.

With a lot of other stuff going on in the run-up to Christmas, I ended up taking the model and bits down to the Midlands when we went en-masse to visit my parents.  So boxing day night saw the actual shoot (ably assisted by a plateful of Christmas Dinner leftovers and a rather nice Merlot).  The set was artificially extended with a sheet of mirrored acrylic.

The windows were done by gluing clear acetate on the plastic window frames, and inserting them into the apertures after giving the acrylic a wash of watered-down paint.  I wanted the impression of fogged-up glass on an autumnal night, which would also mean I didn't need to model interior detail on the buildings.

The figures came in a cheap box from the same clearance bin at Frizinghall, along with some other odds and ends which were scattered as detailing around the set.

The pictures were going very well indeed; right up to the point the torch in the loco packed in.  A problem, as I didn't have any other batteries and it was late on boxing day, so no open shops either.  At least I'd got a few pics done.

I had however bought that treasured Pug loco as a spare; despite the lack of working lamps, it fits the scene and the atmosphere wonderfully.

All in all a very enjoyable project; just what I needed as a distraction in the run-up to Christmas, and what's more, I hit the deadline bang-on time, and there wasn't any mission-creep with the project, it ended up coming out as I'd originally planned.

OK so I didn't win the competition, but I was a runner up, and was thusly featured in the Spring issue of British Railway Modelling magazine.

Next time, I return to the world of Model Villages, having written a lead article for Garden Rail magazine (which you now cannot buy because the shops are shut.  And you cannot visit the real model village because it too is shut.  Ho-hum...)

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