Monday, 29 February 2016

Pick Up Sticks

It's been quite a while since I last made some styrene carriage sides.

The laminate process begins by bonding window pillars onto the bottom half of the bodyside, chopping them to the same height and them adding the cant rail along the top.

The 1970's 'Tin Cars' are unusual in that the doors are set back so we don't bother with them at this stage but the cant rail must run the full length of the carriage body which is why I've left a long tail either side for now.

The other thing that is peculiar about 121 (and the old 117 after it was rebuilt) is that there are very few window pillars because they were fitted with the large bus-style Beclawat windows

This makes the bodysides very flimsy at this stage, and also totally unrepresentative. With the square corners they don't look anything like an FR Tin Car, but I have a way of putting that right.

In the meantime I've discovered I've made an error, so can anyone tell me what is wrong with these bodysides?

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Beginning At the End

Usually the bogies end up being the last thing to get made on a carriage project but this time they're the first thing I've done on the Disco Carriage.

This, you may recall, is something I'm doing for one of our exhibition operators who was involved in operating these musical specials.

The 'disco' was set up in the original carriage 121 (since scrapped, alas) which had its tables and chairs stripped out before being transformed into a narrow gauge nightclub.

You can read about how it was done here on his blog.

I've started with the bogies rather than the body because I haven't yet had the chance to scale down my drawing for the carriage which is in 7mm.

But I had the bits in stock for the bogies - which are my own design of brass frame and resin overlay - and it seemed a good idea to put them together so that I could at least say that I had started the project.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Batch Of Buildings

I've come to the end of around six months where I've worked almost exclusively on buildings so I thought it would be fun to line them all to to show just how much as been achieved.

In the front row is a detached twin garage for the Oberon Wood scene and the big Cwm Cloch Isaf farm house and a small outbuilding.

At the back are the three houses I've built for the row that forms the southern extreme of the housing estate running down the hill from Goat Tunnel.

There is still one building left to do which sits between the pair closest to the camera and the one at the top of the shot.

I'm still waiting for plans for that one but hopefully the Artistic Director is on the case.

Soon I will hand them over to Himself (without requiring the services of the Royal Mail - yippee!) and he'll fit them in place on the layout.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016


Himself says he is itching to get back to doing some modelling after more than two months of enforced abstinence.

Getting settled after a house move is not the work of a moment, of course, so I'm doing what I can to get him back in business.

In this house his modelling den will not have to double as spare bedroom so he's spreading out, and I spent some of an afternoon at the weekend assembling this fancy chair he's bought.

It reminds me of the one Magnus Magnusson used to interrogate contestants in.

The quizmaster's famous catchphrase was "I've started so I'll finish", which is very appropriate because Himself still has a drawer full of stalled projects to complete including lining the new Conway Castle, painting the Brian Madge Britomart, finishing off models of carriages 15 and 19 and rebuilding our Backwoods Darjeeling Pacific.

Let's hope it's a comfy chair!

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Home Sweet Home!

The layouts' long emigration is over!

Bron Hebog and Dduallt have arrived safely at their new home on the west coast of Scotland after a month in transit.

We haven't had the chance to conduct a detailed examination yet but it appears that they have survived the loadings, unloadings and period in storage relatively unscathed.

The only damage Himself has noticed is to a stretch of fencing, but fortunately things like the 'Bridge to Nowhere' on Bron Hebog and the semaphores on Dduallt are all intact.

At the moment they are surrounded by all the detritus of 'flitting' (as we say in Scotland) but the hope is that eventually the double garage (which was top of Himself's wish list for their new home) will have enough room to have Dduallt up more or less permanently, meaning for the first time in nearly 30 years Himself will have a layout to play with at home!

(And me too when I pop in!)

Although there won't be enough room to put the whole of Bron Hebog up we should be able to erect at least 2/3 of it at a time which will be handy for things like trying to fix the phantom electrical fault that disabled the fiddle yards at Dinas last year.

All in all, exciting times!

Friday, 19 February 2016

Move In Condition

While I've been blogging about my blunders the new house has raced over the finish line.

Since I last posted about it I've fitted the two main roof sections and finished the porch.

It's had a chimney and guttering added as well.

The final job was one of the most intricate, fabricating the bay window from styrene strip and embossed 'tongue & groove' sheet.

Although the individual bits are rather flimsy it's quite solid when it's all stick together.

It's a pain in the backside to paint and glaze so to make Himself's life easier I've left it removable for now.

So for the moment that's the last house.

Back to carriages again now...

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Open House Surgery

They say bad news comes in threes and I've made another blunder, only this time there was no easy way out.

I wrote in the previous post about how the two houses are attached, but not quite as I presumed, at the front.

Well, there was a nasty surprise lurking at the rear.

All through the process I've been working from a set of digital research pictures we have taken over the years.

This is one of the images I have of the back of the houses and I think it's pretty clear from looking at it that they are joined at the back, wouldn't you agree?


There was an area at the front of the buildings that I was still puzzling over and I knew that somewhere in a drawer I had some prints (remember those?) from one of our very first visits to the site, and I looked them out to see if there were any better views of the bit I was unclear about.

It turned out there were, and it answered the initial query I had, but I also found some pictures taken at the back and they contained an unwelcome surprise.

I think it's pretty clear from the image below what I discovered.

Yes, that's right. They are most definitely not attached at the back.


So how was I going to get out of this one?

The only option was going to be to take a chunk out of the side of number 18 - the model that is allegedly finished - to create the passageway.

Well, there was nothing else for it but to get on with some judicious destruction.

The roof was eased off and then half of the side wall had to be removed.

I had a stroke of luck here because right at the start of the build I messed up this wall by accidentally slicing it in half.

I'd put it back together with an almost invisible joint and that meant it was easy to snap it apart again.

The last thing to be ripped off was the patio door frame that I'd so carefully built and then I could start the reconstruction by fixing the replacement wall in the altered position.

I quickly knocked up a new window frame - and as is the way of these things it's actually a more simple and robust structure than the original one.

Once that was glued into position the last big job was to trim the slates piece to the new size and slip it back into position.

I've still got to put the foundations in again and stick the brickwork back on but I feel relieved to have been able to successfully  correct this glaring error.

Monday, 15 February 2016

Whoops, Didn't Spot That

I've had another of those moments where I discovered I had not looked at the photographs of my subjects carefully enough.

Houses 17 and 18 are not just attached, it appears they overlap.

The question was how to alter mine retrospectively?

The hard way of doing it would be to cut a section out of the side of the garage on number 18 (the house on the right) so that the next door house sits 'inside' it a little.

But that would be quite an involved process, so I thought of an easier way.

I've added an extra strip of thick styrene to the side of the garage and bonded on a tiny section of slates on the top to create the same effect.

It does mean the left hand wall is a wee bit thicker than it was supposed to be but I hardly think anyone's going to notice.

And, yes, it was most definitely easier.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Late Alterations

I've discovered at an irritatingly-late stage in the build that I didn't pay enough attention to my research photographs of the real building and I've had to do some retrospective hacking.

I came to appreciate that I hadn't cut two of the windows at the rear of the house the correct shape.

The one on the far left needed to be enlarged all-round and the one on the right needed to be a rectangular rather than square, and also shifted a mil or two to the right.

Fortunately, as I have written recently, styrene is a very forgiving material but it is very awkward indeed to try and cut holes with any degree of accuracy into an assembled box, especially one where the walls are 60" thick.

I think I have just about got away with it though.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Levelling Up

Life becomes a lot easier when you can get an asymmetric building like number 17 sitting level so once I'd got the porch area sorted out the next step was to add the basic foundations.

This is not as simple as just adding some extra styrene sheet to the bottom of the walls because you have to be careful that the whole house stays straight, level and continues to sit flat.

It's all too easy to end up with a building that leans or rocks on its foundations.

The job as become easier since I was given a new set square which is at least 10cm on its longest edge and so is very good for checking that the buildings are sitting perfectly perpendicular.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Putting In The Porch

One of the most challenging bits of building number 17 is fitting the front door and the small bin shed that extends to the side of it.

The door is tucked away at the back of a sort of covered walkway along the side of the house.

I ended up making a chicane shaped assembly to fit under there and also form the side of the shed.

It took a lot of careful working out and I was glad to have an undisturbed evening in which to tackle it.

So there it is in position including the slatted bin cupboard door at the far end.

There's still a lot of detailing to be done but that's the basics of this little feature sorted at least.

Sunday, 7 February 2016


After a few days of graft now comes my favourite bit of making a building which is joining the walls together for the first time.

In the case of the Oberon Wood houses it's very a very intriguing moment because some of these houses are such an unconventional shape.

Number 17 is made up of two distinct sections on different levels lined by a long wall along the back.

First I put together the larger, upper section which contains most of the the accommodation.

Before adding on the other half, which includes the integral garage, I added an extra wall section on the inside to ensure that the front wall of the garage was fixed on square and level.

As you can see, at this stage the building is a very odd shape and sits rather lopsided at the moment.

There is also a big gap where the porch and the front entrance to the house will have to be added on, which is most likely my next task.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Windows In

I was pleased to get all the windows and doors added on in one evening session.

It helps that there are at least two completely blank walls and that the doors are relatively simple to do.

If you are puzzled that there are still a couple of blank spaces I should explain that one of them is going to have the bay window added on the front, and the hole which look like a doorway is an opening leading to a passageway / porch where you'll eventually find the front door.

I shall look forward to putting it together next.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Aperture Setting

Perhaps spurred on by the knowledge that it would the last time for a while the process of hacking the window holes out of the blank sides for the new house wasn't too tiresome.

With them all mixed up like this it may be hard for you to mentally assemble them into a building but these are all the basic components for number 17.

There has been the need for a little improvisation during the process with a few of the holes being expanded or even moved.

How do you move a hole in a big sheet of styrene?

Well, quite simply, in fact, because of the forgiving nature of the material.

The long gallery window was one of those I miscalculated (or cocked up) at the first attempt.

When I offered it up to one of the end pieces with the sloping roof line it became clear that the sill was set much too low, and indeed would be below the slates.

The solution was to slice a long thin chunk away from the the top and bond it on at the bottom.

As long as it's a reasonable fit, if you treat it to a generous dousing of solvent it will melt into place nicely and with some scraping with the scalpel blade or attention from the file you'll hardly see the join.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Shape Puzzle

I started work on house number 17 the other night.

It's not the 17th house I've built - although it feels like it sometimes - that's just its street number.

I didn't actually get that far. After around an hour and a half all I had managed to achieve was to get the basic wall blanks cut out.

The reason is it that I spent quite a lot of time trying to puzzle out how the house all fits together.

It's an usual shape and complicated but the fact that not only is it on two levels and the ground around it slopes, it is also attached to the house to its right but sits a little lower.

This is one of the sketches from the Artistic Director that I'm working from.

Because of these complicating factors I decided the best thing to do was cut out all the walls at this stage so I can be sure that they will all fit together properly rather than cutting out pieces one at a time and finishing them off with window and door details before moving onto the next one.

That's the theory anyway...