Category Archives: My models

Figured Out

Well, following a trip to the Festival of Railway Modelling at Alexandra Palace this weekend, I have almost the last items I need to complete my layout.

If you’re going to have a non-specific factory, you’ll need box vans. For some reason, decent (i.e. not Triang, not Dublo, not Hornby-garish-private-owner) vans seem to be hard to come by. These ones are, left to right, a Dapol meat van, a Mainline Vanfit and a Hornby ex-Southern Railway van. I’ve tried to get some variation in terms of shape and colour, just to make shunting a bit more interesting. For some reason, I really like those Southern vans. I don’t know if meat vans were used for anything other than meat, but there’s one here anyway. Maybe it has the workmen’s lunch or something.

Speaking of workmen, you’ll notice there are none. I’ve been trying to find some typical steam age factory worker types and they are very difficult to get hold of. At least, to the level of detail I’m looking for. I don’t want something ready-painted, because frankly ready-painted figures look terrible. My brother is a wargamer, and having seen the results he and his fellow hobbyists get on their figures, the blobby paint jobs that seem to be the industry standard just won’t cut it for me.

The big difference between the way wargamers do things figure-wise and the way we do things (generally) is that wargamers appreciate that one thing you can’t scale down is light. Therefore, they paint light and shade on their figures – starting with a dark base coat, adding colours, then adding highlights. The results are, comparatively, spectacular.

This chap explains things far better than me.

http://www.brifayle.ca/2bshadowstheory.html

So, that’s how it’s done. And for my money, these are the best OO gauge figures on the market at the moment:

http://www.dartcastings.co.uk/montys.php

These are figures full of detail and character. The Workers, in the Railway Staff section, look to be exactly what I’m looking for, and I reckon they’ll come out just fine. I do have their Skipper and Vicar figures (I intend to paint them as Captain Haddock and Rev. W. Awdry respectively).

[Usual disclaimer – I have no link with the above other than as a satisfied customer. Although if Monty’s would like to send me a load of figures in exchange for this plug I wouldn’t say no]

The reason for my concern figure-wise is that, on a large layout, the somewhat short on detail and dubious-of-scale figures by Modelscene and Hornby would go unnoticed. On a layout this small, detail compromises tend to stick out like a sore thumb. That’s why I’ve been painting the track, as you see above. Still no ballast, but you know how it is.

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The ex-file

Well, contrary to what I said in my last entry, I have actually made some changes on the micro. Witness:

It all started when I added a bit of grass (carpet fibres, available from the shop at Pendon Museum in their own scenic range). Unfortunately, this was a little more effective than I’d hoped, and really showed up the bare grey card. I added washes of light grey in various shades with various brown tints to make the card look a bit more like concrete. Here’s what the layout looks like with no stock, vehicles or buildings:

As you can see, I did add clutter. The buildings have loads stacked up against them, largely to ensure they get positioned correctly. The large crates and small barrels are from Gilbow – superb accessories, among the best on the market in my opinion. The other crates are Peco and the red-ended barrel is Merit.

The pile of sand is a discovery of my own. There’s this substance you can get in art shops known as gel medium. Essentially, the idea behind this is that you add it to paint to give your paintings texture. It comes in several varieties and can be easily shaped. It costs a little under £10 a jar, but is incredibly useful. I’ve used it to represent sand, gravel and pebble dash in the past. Here, I mixed it with Games Workshop’s “Snakebite Leather” paint, which creates a nice sandy colour.

The tractor is an Oxford die cast model and the car is Classix. I don’t intend to fix the vehicles down, as they’re a handy way of setting the period. I want this to be fairly flexible in terms of setting, just so that nothing I run there looks totally wrong.

Conceptually, this is basically a smaller version of “Micklewhite Wharf.” At the moment, it’s called “Semple Town,” which I hope people won’t take as a comment on its builder. It’s set in East London on the south bank of the Thames – the distant buildings on the backscene are supposed to be on the far side of the river. The name comes from the tendency of places in East London to be named after industrial firms – Canning Town, Silvertown, Beckton. This is the works of Harry Semple.

I have no idea what Semple’s factory produces, but it certainly requires a large variety of rolling stock. Much of this has been inherited from Micklewhite Wharf, for the obvious reasons that (a) it’s the same setting and (b) both layouts require compact stock in order to be satisfying to run.

Above left is the Terrier, the “main line” engine. It’s also the longest engine on the layout, which might be a first for a Terrier. It’s hauling the workmen’s train, which consists of repainted “Emily’s Coaches” from Bachmann’s Thomas the Tank Engine range. There’s barely enough room for the engine with both coaches, so most of the time the train will consist of one coach. The Terriers, as I’ve said before, were typical East London engines and could be found both north and south of the river.

Above right is Billy, a rather battered Bachmann Junior locomotive. For a while, Bachmann produced this and an 0-4-0 saddle tank using the tooling from their American Thomas range. Unfortunately, this got them in a bit of trouble with HIT Entertainment, Thomas’ copyright holders, and so have been withdrawn. Detailing is minimal and they’re basically freelance, but I think they look rather neat. I was going to repaint this one, but I think I might just weather him down a bit.

The engine on the left is another Bachmann Junior engine, this time a somewhat Hunslet-esque diesel shunter originally named Rusty. I’ve repainted it and slightly weathered it, and coincidentally it matches Billy’s colour quite well. The wagon immediately behind is a curiosity, and not actually mine. My brother picked it up second-hand, and due to a lack of space and time I am the current custodian of much of his stock. The lack of markings suggest it’s an internal user wagon. As the bro said, it’s quite a nice thing to have on a Docklands layout.

The railway still isn’t finished. The more I do, the more I find to do. I’m sure you know what I mean. But given that in terms of total hours I’ve spent less than a day to get this far (not including drying time for glue) and considering that I’ve spent less than £10, I’m quite pleased.

Now I’m thinking in terms of other micro-layouts. I’ve had lots of layout ideas over the years, but no room for them. Now I’m thinking in terms of a parcels depot, a Tube station, a harbour, a scrapyard, dabbling in O-16.5…

Is this the world’s laziest model railway?

Hola, amigos. It’s been a while since I was last here. I was busy with some things. I won’t lie to you, there have been other blogs. But they meant nothing to me, nothing, I swear.

That out of the way, here’s my latest project. It may be the laziest layout ever built.

The concept is shamelessly stolen from various layouts Carl Arendt’s now-legendary website, Micro/Small Layouts for Model Railroads (link below). It was built in a boxfile. Most of the scenery was from the scrapbox, so total cost to me was £6. Quick run-down of the layout…

Base – Boxfile from W. H. Smith. I removed the end rather than try to hack through it. This caused the file to lose a lot of its stiffness, remedied by reinforcing the bottom with foamcore board.

Track (including buffer stops) – Hornby. The points were a fiver second-hand (RRP £12), which is why small local model shops with a good selection of second-hand stock are indispensible. Shout-out to Jane’s Trains in Tooting, possibly the best model shop in London.

Buildings – Metcalfe. I’ve had these for a while, and as you can see, they’re a little the worse for wear. The kit came with a sheet of card with extra details on – I cut the walls around the edge of the layout from this.

Ground – Grey card.

Backscene – Blue card. The buildings in the distance were cut out of National Trust leaflets (yet another reason to support the National Trust). I plan to add more buildings along the right-hand side, which currently looks rather bare.

Crane – From the Ertl Thomas the Tank Engine range. It’s currently awaiting a hook. In my opinion, this is a hugely underrated toy in modelling terms. Admittedly it’s freelance and could do with detailing, but cranes like this could be seen from the First World War right through to the 1970s. It could be used in almost any industrial scenario and, to my knowledge, there’s nothing quite like it on the market at the moment (not for that price, anyway).

The layout is almost finished in fact. Now, I know what you’re thinking. How can I say it’s nearly finished when I haven’t even ballasted the track? Well, here’s the thing. I don’t plan to. I actually quite like it the way it is. I know, sacrilege. I plan to add some clutter to distract the eye from the bare “concrete,” but otherwise the ground will stay as is.

Basically, I wanted a simple layout that I could actually get finished without getting bogged down or having to make expensive shopping trips for the scenery. It took a grand total of two evenings, not including the time it took to assemble the buildings (one evening). It’s not much, but I like it.

Further explanations will be forthcoming in the next entry.

See also

www.carendt.com – A Mecca for the enthusiast of the micro-layout.

Freelance as a bird

Something I’ve been idly thinking about on and off for several years now is the idea of a completely fictional railway. I don’t mean a might-have-been branch of an existing line, or a fictional place served by a real railway. I mean a completely made-up railway company. And not a light railway, either, but a proper main line company.

In America, this sort of model railway is not uncommon. That is largely because American companies tended to buy off-the-shelf, as it were, from major locomotive works. In Britain, this was the case for light railways, industrial railways and narrow gauge railways, but most of the main line companies tended to build in-house. Indeed, while there are layouts depicting fictional British railway companies, they do tend to be in the light railway/industrial railway/narrow gauge railway mould.

So to build a freelance main line is a slightly daunting prospect, as it rather suggests that some serious scratchbuilding is going to be a necessity to represent the weird-and-wonderful locomotives of your fictional company. Or is it? What got me thinking about the idea of a fictional company was the fact that a number of companies over the years have produced freelance locomotives in OO scale. There are enough, if you’re prepared to perform a little modification and sacrifice super-detail, to get a pretty complete locomotive fleet.

There are additional ways you might pad the loco stud out. While I noted above that most companies built in-house, it wasn’t unknown for engines from one company to end up on the lines of another. Midland ‘Jinties’ ended up on the Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway and the Northern Counties Commission in Northern Ireland. London, Brighton and South Coast ‘Terriers’ found their way on to the London and South Western Railway and the Weston, Clevedon and Portishead Railway. Some London, Midland and Scottish Railway 8Fs could be found on the London and North Eastern Railway. Major companies even, in times of need, bought off-the-shelf, as with the LNER J94s.

Or – how’s this for an idea – suppose your company managed to poach a real-life locomotive designer? Say, your company convinced Stanier or Bulleid to work for them? You could run reliveried Black 5s or West Countries. Or even let your imagination run riot with might-have-been locomotive designs and failed projects. Suppose Bulleid was given the wherewithall to build a full run of Leaders? There’s no shortage of possibilities.

For now, here are the fictional classes I have in mind for my own layout, along with how they might be made. I’ve come up with my own very basic class numbering system.

B1

Description: An 0-4-0 side tank. Their small coal capacity meant that they were almost exclusively used for shunting.

In reality: Hornby’s Guest, Keen and Nettlefold ‘D’ class tank engine. Although this is based on a real locomotive, the body has been so stretched in order to fit the standard 0-4-0 chassis that it’s practically freelance.

B2

Description: A larger side tank, capable of trip working. Often used on branch lines.

In reality: Triang’s Nellie. This has been produced in several variants over the years. It’s theoretically based on an LSWR C12, but in reality looks almost nothing like it.

B3

Description: An 0-4-0 saddle tank, fitted with a bunker to increase its range. Primarily used for shunting, although capable of hauling short goods trains. Problems with adhesion led the designer to devise an unusual extended saddle tank for increased weight. This tank appeared almost to wrap around the engine’s boiler, leading the class to be nicknamed “sausage rolls.”

In reality: A Bachmann Junior 0-4-0.

B3X

Description: An enlarged version of the successful B3. They were used for much the same duties as that class of engine. Perhaps inevitably, they were nicknamed “jumbo sausage rolls” or simply “jumbos.”

In reality: A Hornby ‘Percy the Small Engine’ with face removed.

B4

Description: An 0-4-0 with extended side tanks designed for use on passenger service. They were noted for their superb acceleration, although they could be unstable at speed.

In reality: A Hornby Railroad ‘LBSC 0-4-0T’. This was originally manufactured in the guise of an 0-4-0 version of Thomas the Tank Engine.

B5

Description: A rugged 0-4-0 shunter intended for dock shunting and indeed, use anywhere where heavy loads needed to be moved around tight curves.

In reality: Hornby’s ‘International’ tank, a vaguely non-British-looking engine produced in the 1970s.

E1

Description: A mixed traffic 0-6-0 with extended side tanks. Essentially a larger, improved version of the B4, it was a highly successful design and formed the basis of a number of subsequent locomotives.

In reality: Bachmann’s Junior 0-6-0 tank of 2005. This, like the “prototype” of the B4 above, was based on tooling originally devised for a version of Thomas the Tank Engine, hence I’ve said that the E1 was derived from the B4.

E2

Description: A small class. The company bought five Jinties from the Midland Railway to augment the E1.

In reality: Er, a Jinty. Triang, Hornby or Bachmann.

E3

Description: Intended to be a modernised version of the E1, these locomotive bear many similarities to the earlier class.  The most obvious difference is that the E3 is a saddle tank. It bears a passing resemblance to the Austerity tank, although it predates that class by a good ten years.

In reality: The current Bachmann Junior 0-6-0 saddle tank. This uses the same chassis as the earlier Junior 0-6-0, and so I’ve accounted for this by saying that, again, one locomotive was based on the other.

ED1

Description: A one-off 1930s experiment in diesel traction, using the frames of a withdrawn E1. Its designer had hoped to replace the railway’s tank engines with diesel traction. Unfortunately, while the engine was fine for shunting, it had very poor acceleration and low speed, and was virtually unusable for trip working. No further members of this class were built.

In reality: The Bachmann Junior diesel shunter. This uses the standard Junior 0-6-0 chassis, and so I’ve said that it uses a steam locomotive’s frames. It wasn’t unknown for this to happen with early diesel shunters. For instance, I know Sentinel used the same frames for their early diesels as for their vertical boilered steam shunters.

ED2

Description: Another one-off 0-6-0 diesel experiment carried out with the assistance of English Electric. As a result, it bore a strong resemblance to early diesel shunters of the LMS, LNER and Southern Railway. However, unlike those, the aim with this engine was to again produce a mixed traffic locomotive capable of doing anything a tank engine could. The resulting engine was a failure on trip working due, again, to low speed and poor acceleration. Furthermore, it was unreliable, and ended its days as a mobile generator.

In reality: The Triang 0-6-0 shunter, which looks almost but not quite like a Class 08. A lot of early diesel shunters bore a resemblance to the Class 08s, even if they weren’t directly related to them. Therefore it’s not too ridiculous to suggest that another “almost-08” was constructed experimentally.

G1

Description: A Victorian 4-4-2 passenger tank designed for commuter trains. Although fast, they were incapable of hauling the longer commuter trains and so were relegated to secondary services by the First World War.

In reality: A Bachmann ‘Emily’ from their Thomas range. This character is based on a Great Northern Railway Stirling ‘Single’. My version is being converted into a tank engine, with the tender reserved for an I1.

H1

Description: A 4-4-0 passenger engine used mostly for secondary passenger services and pilot duties, although they could occasionally be found substituting on expresses.

In reality: A Bachmann ‘Edward’ from their Thomas range with face removed and a more realistic tender (haven’t decided what, though). The tender supplied is utterly hopeless as a scale model.

I1

Description: Known as the ‘Small Moguls,’ these were basically a tender version of the now-legendary E1s. Like the H1s, they were capable of pulling occasional express trains. However, they were primarily used for secondary passenger services and fast goods.

In reality: A Bachmann ‘James’, again from the Thomas range, with the tender from the aforementioned ‘Emily’. As you may have guessed, this also uses the Junior chassis, this time with the addition of a pony truck.

I2

Description: The ‘Large Mogul’, a powerful mixed traffic engine which really came into its own for heavy goods work. Indeed, they were the favoured class for these duties.

In reality: Hornby’s version of James. This is larger than the Bachmann version, being a modified version of Triang’s hopeless 3F tender engine. The extended front and Schools Class tender serve to make this a freelance engine.

J1

Description: A 4-6-0 intended for heavy freight but, in reality, offering no advantages over the established I2. However, they were excellent passenger locomotives and, before the arrival of the K1s, were reckoned to be the best express engines on the railway.

In reality: Bachmann’s ‘Henry,’ yet again from the Thomas range. This engine, in the original Railway Series books, is based on a Black 5. In the TV series it looks like no engine living or dead.

K1

Description: The railway’s first Pacific. The J1 ‘s success as an express engine was noted, but it was not without its faults. The rear of the locomotive looked somewhat ungainly, being unsupported, and the unusually large cab windows were prone to breakage . The K1 was designed to correct these faults, and also boasted a larger boiler. The resulting engine was perhaps not as elegant as the Pacifics developed on other railways in the 1920s, but it was more than capable of the jobs it was given.

In reality: Yes, once again, it’s from the Bachmann Thomas range. This time it’s Gordon, which uses many of Henry’s chassis components. It’s commonly asserted that Gordon is based on a Gresley A3, but in fact there’s not much of a resemblance. Hence, again, I feel no guilt whatsoever for claiming it as a freelance model. However, the tender is again hopeless and will be replaced.

K2

Description: A somewhat inelegant Pacific with inside motion, developed in the mid-1930s to work the routes for which the K1 was too heavy. The resemblance to the LMS ‘Princess Royal’ class has been noted, and allegations of industrial espionage against Crewe have been made, although never proved. In fact, given that this engine has few similarities to the Princess beyond the visual, the theory is largely discredited.

In reality: A Triang Princess. These were too short to be considered ‘scale models,’ and didn’t have outside motion – once again, it’s a case of an engine that’s bad enough to be freelance.

So there you go – 18 different classes of locomotive, sufficient to cover most duties on a railway. These aren’t the only freelance or semi-freelance models that have been produced, not by a long way. With a little imagination you could probably do a lot more, but I hope I’ve proven that it’s possible to create a freelance fleet. In future entries, I hope to explore the fictional company a bit more.

Micklewhite Wharf – We’re Getting There

Hullo all, I realise it’s been a while since I updated this thing. You know how it is with this hobby. Anyway, the layout’s been taking shape over the past few weeks, and now looks like this:

IMG_1659

There’s still a long way to go, obviously. I’ve decided to scrap the “siding in the sky” idea (although a siding on a stub of viaduct isn’t impossible – only today I saw one on the approach to Cannon Street). Instead, the bridge will act as a scenic break. It’ll still carry a railway, but will be static.

A lot of the scenic features you see above are from Saxondale Mouldings, in their Finishing Touches range. They don’t have a website, but sell quite a lot on eBay. I encountered them at the Croydon show last week. They produce accessories in various scales, mostly lorry and wagon loads. The crates saved me quite a bit of work making and painting clutter for the wharf. The yellow resin thing at the back is, I think, intended as a viaduct side. I think it looks a bit like an early 19th century dockside building, so that’s what it is. I think a whole row of corrugated iron warehouses would be a little monotonous.

Mud, mud, glorious mud, nothing quite like it for ruining shipping.

Mud, mud, glorious mud, nothing quite like it for ruining shipping.

I’m rather pleased with the canal basin. I wasn’t sure what to do with this at first. I wanted it to be muddied up in order to add to the general air of dereliction I was trying to achieve. If a dock isn’t in use, it won’t be dredged and it’ll silt up pretty quickly. Here are some examples from my own explorations.

St Katherine's Dock

St Katherine's Dock

One advantage of the docks in London closing down is that there’s no shortage of silt. But I was worried that, again, it might look boring to just have mud. I considered a boat, but most boat kits are pretty expensive, especially given that this one would most likely be chopped up to fit the space. In any case, most boat kits are unsuitable for the London Docklands. The other option was the Hornby butty boat, but I didn’t much fancy the idea of hacking resin about – the dust is clingy as the Dickens. Fortunately, The Finishing Touches came to the rescue again with a short boat that looks about right for a canal – the sort of thing that might be used to carry miscellaneous rubbish and just moored wherever. There was a similar vessel moored in Richmond a few years ago until it sank.

St Saviour's Dock

St Saviour's Dock

However, in the meantime, I’d had another idea for making the basin interesting. I’d come across a photo of an abandoned canal basin in the East End that had filled with rubbish brought in by the incoming tide. So I used Polyfilla to create the mud and pressed various bits of plastic, wood and card into it. The edges were lined with sections of those wooden stirrers you get in Starbucks and suchlike places. Finally, everything was painted with Tamiya Olive Drab for that slimy effect.

What else, what else… The crane is Wills, again intended to be long-abandoned. The lamp hut is also Wills, which I’ve weathered down to an acceptably grimy shade. The girders and the lighter-coloured crates are Exclusive First Editions, albeit I’ve given the crates a wash in brownish-grey thinned acrylic to tone them down in line with the rest of the scenery.
More when… well, when I get around to it, really.

The Reign of Terrier

Well, the docklands layout now has a locomotive. I don’t normally buy locomotives specifically for layouts, more the other way round – I build layouts in order to give locomotives somewhere to run.

IMG_1553But, well, I rather like the London, Brighton and South Coast ‘Terriers’, and I saw a second-hand one going cheap on a stall at a jumble sale, so policy be damned.

The use of a Terrier (or A1X, if we’re going to be pedantic) is, of course, entirely justified on an East London layout – the LBSC actually built these delightful engines to work passenger trains on their lines in South East London. They were nippy little engines, and more than capable of the work they were given to do. They were equally capable of goods and shunting work, and their small size and light weight made them perfect for branch and light railway work. So good at their jobs were they that they lasted in service from the 1870s through to the 1960s, often passing through more than one owner – where the LBSC or Southern Railway didn’t want them, someone else generally did. Some even ended up back with the Southern after the lines they had been sold to were taken over.

The engine in the photo is Brighton, an engine that had something of an adventurous life. It was a showtrain of sorts, winning a gold medal at the 1878 Exposision Universelle in Paris and, in a moment to gladden the heart of any red-blooded Englishman, set a speed record of 50mph on the Chemins de Fer de l’Ouest. It went to the Isle of Wight Central Railway in 1902. On withdrawal, it was a seaside attraction at Butlin’s holiday camp at Pwllheli, which frankly sounds like a fate worse than death. Fortunately, the engine was saved by the Isle of Wight Steam Railway and now lives there under its Wight identity of Newport, number W11.

All of which rather suggests that it shouldn’t be in the East End during BR days. Fortunately, there’s a little phrase we modellers like to use, which is “might have been”. J E Connor, in his book Stepney’s Own Railway, notes that there was at one time a plan to build a link between the East London Railway and the London and Blackwall Railway at Shadwell. The East London Railway used Marc Brunel’s tunnel under the Thames to provide a link between the North and South sides of the docks in East London. It was operated by the London, Chatham and Dover Railway, the Metropolitan Railway, the Metropolitan District Railway, the South Eastern Railway, the Great Eastern Railway – and the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway. Connor suggests that enthusiasm for this project was the reason for Terriers being built with the names Stepney, Fenchurch, Minories, Shadwell, Millwall, Poplar and Blackwall. The Terriers were named after places on or near LBSC lines (which apparently caused Victorian travellers a lot of confusion, as they mistook the name of the engine for the destination of the train), but those seven places were all along the London and Blackwall Railway.

So I’m gonna go right ahead and say that, in the universe where my railway is set, that link actually was built. The Terriers would have been ideal motive power for the dock lines, as the swing bridges carried a severe weight restriction. They already worked through the Thames Tunnel, that’s why they were fitted with condensing equipment, so it’s no stretch to suggest that they would have been regular performers on such a link.

The docks give me an excuse for all sorts of (small) motive power, justifying the use of engines from the London Midland, Eastern and Southern Regions, although I don’t intend to restrict myself to BR days. I could also bring in the Port of London Authority’s locos and stock, as well as any number of industrial shunters.

Yes, I think this is going to work out just fine.

Why “Terriers?”

Ever wondered how these engines got their nicknames? The most popular suggestions are that they’re very small compared to most locomotives, and they have a distinctive exhaust “bark” when working hard (apparently due to their Westinghouse brake pumps). J E Connor adds another suggestion – because the A1 class worked through the Thames tunnel, they spent much of their time underground. Like, yes, a terrier hunting rats.

Further Reading

http://www.terriertrust.org.uk/ – The Terrier Trust. An informative and informal site with lots of interesting articles.

http://www.semgonline.com/steam/a1x_01.html – The Southern E-Group is, to my mind, the best online resource for enthusiasts of the Southern Railway, its constituents and successors. They have no less than twelve lavishly-illustrated pages on Stroudley’s little friends.

Bricking It

WARNING: This entry takes a while to get to the point. You may want to scroll down to where there are pictures. I know I would.

As you may have gathered from previous entries, I’m not exactly what you’d call a rivet counter. I’m more of the Impressionist school of modeller, in that I’d rather create something that feels right than something that’s precisely accurate. Put it this way – Hornby Dublo, to me, often seems more “real” than finescale stuff because it has a real weight and momentum to it, despite the fact that the detail is often laughable by modern standards.

Similarly, my favourite layouts are often the ones where there’s less attention to detail, where the builder has shunned conventional accuracy to create something genuinely different. Quite often, these are created by people who are new to the hobby. I recall British Railway Modelling published articles on Midge Grassing’s Sancliffe Junction some years back, a layout created using some unconventional scenic techniques which, as a result, really stood out. See http://www.ngrail.co.uk/2_sand.htm for some photos. I also enjoyed Model Rail‘s recent article on artist David Shepherd’s home layout, built according to the philosophy that “‘it’s my railway and I can do what I bloody well want with it'” (to quote the article). Even Allan Downes, who has been wowing us with his buildings and scenery for decades, admits that he doesn’t worry about getting things dead on, provided they look like what they’re supposed to.

However, this philosophy doesn’t necessarily mean that you can get away with anything at all, as I discovered while researching my current project My layout is set in the East End of London, and one of the things I wanted to include was track on more than one level – a characteristic of railways in East London is that they are carried on viaducts. My initial thought was that I could just get away with weathering Hornby’s standard single-arch road bridge, which is already brick red.

brid1I mean, bricks is bricks, right? It turns out not. See, my research, which largely consisted of wandering around the East End with a camera looking suspicious, showed that brick viaducts in the East End are yellow.

This, according to people who know these things, is because the bricks were made in Kent, where the clay is low in iron. Anyway, what this meant in practical terms was that I was completely wrong. I could still use red brick – there are red buildings in East London – but yellow would be better for creating the feel of the area.

Yellow brick viaduct, East London, apparently in the middle of an atomic explosion.

Yellow brick viaduct, East London, apparently in the middle of an atomic explosion.

And so I set to work with various shades of brown and yellow. In addition to the fact that the colour was wrong, it was also clear that I was going to have to do quite a lot of weathering.

For the base coat, I used Games Workshop’s ‘Bubonic Brown’  (are buboes yellowy-brown?). Then I went over with several layers of ink and thin, grey-brown paint. This adds depth to the basecoat, as well as bringing the colour closer to what I was aiming for.

One technique I used was to apply slightly darker paint to areas such as the underside of the arch and below ledges – areas that, on the real thing, are in shadow. This is because, with the best will in the world, you can’t scale the actions of light and shade down. Therefore, in this scale, shadows look a bit feeble unless you give them a helping hand.

Here’s the result, as compared with an unpainted bridge.

brid2It’s not perfect, I’ll admit. It’ll need several more layers of paint before it achieves the old-and-dirty look I’m aiming for. But it’s a massive improvement over the out-of-the-box road bridge, and now looks like it might actually be made of bricks.

Incidentally, I took several close-up photos of brick and concrete, which I will bore you with in a future entry.