Tuesday, 22 August 2017

It's All About The Angles

Having cast a veritable avalanche of rock slabs for Himself to be getting on with I had a choice of what project to take on next.

The options are to try to play catch-up with the carriage works - always a lost cause - and make the latest of the WHR saloons, 2047, or I could get on with completing the housing estate scene by making the final two properties.

In the end I decided that with Himself doing well with the tree construction, and making a move towards lining the cutting, we are tantalisingly close to getting Bron Hebog to a point where you could sort of claim it was 'finished', so I plumped for the houses.

These two are slightly more straightforward than some of the others in the estate.

One of them is a pure bungalow and the other, which I'm starting on first, is another which is half on one level and the rest with an upper floor.

This one also has a garage attached which looks to have been partly converted into living accommodation.

Planning out these houses I find that the key to them is to establish the pitch of the roofs, then you can work out the width and the height of all the interconnecting sections.

Just to be sure that they will fit in the space that we have left for them in the scene I shall draw out both and cut out some floor plans first, and try those out on the layout, before I begin constructing them.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Cutting Casting

The story of my modelling week has been casting a job lot of resin rocks for lining the massive cutting at the back of the layout.

I've made five molds using pieces of shale collected in the North Wales area over the years and I've made a few copies of each.

In order to give Himself more options when using them, in a mosaic fashion, to line the cutting I have cast a number of smaller pieces by pouring resin into only a small area of the mold.

One of our concerns is that it repeated patterns could be obvious in the rock walls so this should help him break it up a bit.

The reason we're doing this is because Cutting Mawr is so long and deep that to line it with real rock would make the baseboard very heavy and more awkward to carry and lift into place when the layout is exhibited.

Incidentally, the difference in the colour of some of the pieces is because half way through I moved onto using a new bottle of Isocyanat.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Enigma Variations

I have posted before about how Boston Lodge has developed a hybrid SAR wagon design which has been dubbed the BZ.

It features a large centre door within otherwise fixed sides, just like a B wagon, but it is built to the much more user-friendly height of a DZ wagon.

It also has another Welsh innovation which is end pieces that are hinged to fold down flat so that, when parked, a rake of wagons becomes a drive-through platform.

Very clever.

Himself saw the second of these nearing completion while he was volunteering on repairs to the works recently, and returned north with the unwelcome (but inevitable) news that they are not identical.

Far from it, in fact.

This second once has been built with a major revision to the side door arrangement.

Instead of a door which was the same width as on B wagon, on this 2nd BZ it has been extended to occupy the space of two of the previously fixed panels either side.

Compare the latest wagon above, with the first version below.

It would also appear that the most recent one has been converted from an existing DZ - the brackets along the side being the giveaway.

The significance of this, of course, is that it scuppers any ideas I held of making one master model and casting a run of them.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Rock Formation

So it's time to put my rock casting plan into action.

One of the first hurdles to overcome is how best to make the mold.

Most of the time the masters I make are glued onto a sheet of styrene, and, crucially, they have at least one flat surface and very little undercut.

Neither is true of the pieces of rock we are making copies of, and I'm not especially keen on using acres of fresh styrene sheet either. (Have you seen the price of it recently?)

So what I've hit on is to borrow a technique from two-part molding and place the piece of rock on bed of modelling clay which is stuck onto a reusable wooden board, and then has a styrene box built around it.

This then has the RTV poured into the box in the usual way and once that's set I can begin casting copies.

One of the things which I have noticed already in casting the first few pieces is how fast the resin sets.

Compared to the carriage and wagon sides I usually cast, which are comparatively thin, these rocks are quite thick in places and it's noticeable how much more heat is generated as the two parts of the resin cure and harden in front of your eyes.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Oberon Gets Its Wood

Himself has spent the week on a tree-building binge.

(I've no idea what's come over him because it's a job he hates.)

Anyway, he's made enough to plant the hillside on top of Goat Tunnel.

Here's a view which you very rarely see, as if you were standing on the famous PB&SSR 'Bridge to Nowhere'.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Little Train Meets Big Train

Himself was down in Wales a week or so ago volunteering on what was once known as 'Kids Week', the FR's pioneering, and long-running, event to enthuse the next generation of volunteers.

He took with him our model of the new observation carr 150 so that it could be inspected by some of the team who built the real one.

While poking around the carriage works to gather information on what they're building at the moment he posed it for a photo on the front window ledge of the follow-up 152.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Done My Bit

The new 118 is ready to pass over to Himself for all the finishing off and the painting.

I usually leave it to him to do all the tricky metalwork such as bending the brass roof skin and fitting the brake pipe which runs all along the carriage, weaving this way and that.

There's also the devilish handrails to fabricate to go either side of the doors (he hates doing those) and the vacuum pipes to fit.

I've made up a pair of our brass and resin bogies but they'll need some precision violence to make sure they can swing enough for the tightest curves on Dduallt and they also need to be fitted with Greenwich couplers.

So actually it's quite a long way from being finished.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

School Of Rock

One of the major jobs left on Bron Hebog is to complete the rock faces of Cutting Mawr.

As long-term followers of our layouts will know, up until now we've been in the habit of using real Welsh rock as a scenic material, but that does have consequences for the weight of the layouts (and the poor team who have to carry them in and out of venues when we're exhibiting).

So Himself has decided that the time as come to experiment a little.

We still believe that nothing has an authentic texture quite like the real thing so he has set me the challenge of seeing whether I can replicate a few pieces in resin.

This should be easy enough, although I'm going to go through a job lot of RTV silicone and a fair bit of resin too.

The challenge for him will then be to paint them to make them look realistic.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

The Seats Are In

I'd saved up one of the most satisfying jobs of the carriage-building process to a moment where I had the time to enjoy it.

So with a the prospect of an undisturbed evening at the workbench ahead of me I sat down and fitted the seat and table units to 118.

These are my own modular design which I cast in resin and - with just a little bit of filing here and there - fit like a dream with the seat backs all lining up with the window pillars.

It's a very nice feeling to see something you designed and produced working so well in practice and it really takes the bind out of producing carriage interiors from scratch, which could be very time consuming.

Friday, 4 August 2017

The Pips

After the trauma of fitting the truss rods (every time!) making up the boxes which represent the various things hung under a modern FR carriage - such as the diesel-burning heating unit and the associated fuel - is child's play.

Of course, no model of the FR Superbarn carriages would look quite right if it didn't have something to represent the distinctive blocks along the side of the underframe.

In fact these are brackets which support the sightly wider wooden body which you can see on this shot taken earlier this week of the under frame of what will be 120 in the welding bay at Boston Lodge.

In my case I don't bother to try to make scaled-drown brackets, instead I just glue small cuts of styrene strip in the right places.

It looks effective as far as I'm concerned and that matters as much as rivet-counting accuracy in my book.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Doing The Chores

Everyone has tasks on a model project that have to be endured rather more than enjoyed.

As I wrote last time, for Himself it is making trees, and for me its always been making up the corridor connections.

It's not that they're particularly difficult to make, just slightly fiddly and drawn out with lots of bits of styrene to be cut, glued together and then shaped to make up the six finished pieces needed.

But they do look good, so it's worth it in the end.

The other job which I never look forward to is making up and fitting the truss rods which is just down to my pure incompetence when it comes to bending metal.

No matter how much care I try to take I can never get the angle of the bends correct at the first attempt, nor the holes in the floor which the ends are inserted into, which results in much tiresome faffing about.

It's just one of those necessary evils which has to be tackled as part of making a carriage but I'm always glad when it's done.

Monday, 31 July 2017


Himself has been working on some more trees and tells me he's already bored after only half a dozen of them!

That's something he's going to have to learn to live with because there are an awful lot of them still to make to go around he layout.

A good number of them will need to be planted on the top of the tunnel to represent the small wood there.

He's also joined the two boards either side of Goat Tunnel together to blend the gardens behind the houses into the rest of the scene.

Please forgive the slightly blurred picture, Himself's phone is clearly not as smart as it thinks it is.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

The Gardener's Been

The last of the landscaping has been completed around the new houses.

The bare grass at the back which I showed you a few days ago has had various bushes and other foliage added.

Hopefully you can see the clear differentiation between the rough grass of the field and the more manicured lawns.

At the front of the houses there have been a number of bushes planted, particularly around the entrances of some of the properties.

It's come together very quickly given that just a few weeks ago this area was just open baseboard frame.

Thursday, 27 July 2017


I like it when you get to the stage of adding those little details which really complete the scene.

One of them is the cemetery from which Cemetery Crossing gets its name which is shortly beyond the exit from Goat Tunnel, or shortly before, depending on which direction you're traveling in.

Himself has made a nice job of a batch of grave stones which he has set out in the enclosed area above the line.

I did offer to make some masters and cast them in resin, thinking it might speed up the process, but it turns out he's made them all from scratch.

Here's a shot he posed featuring our newest carriage, 150, and a Triple Fairlie combo.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Fencing Continues

The cocktail sticks and cotton are still threading their way around the layout.

In the last couple of weeks Himself has changed around the boards which are up on the trestles and able to be worked on (because we don't have room, alas, to erect the whole layout at once) so now he's moved onto the Porthmadog end of the station and the section of line to the south of Goat Tunnel.

Here you can see the fencing has been completed along section by Cemetery Crossing.

And in the station area he's been busy fencing in the concrete pad where one day there might be a station building (?)

Even when it does get built ours will remain forever a concrete pad because Bron Hebog is frozen in a time warp around the period of the re-opening.

This view reminds me that I've still got to make some temporary toilet units to go in here.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Slow Progress

Getting your mojo back when you return from a holiday is always hard.

I've been doing some short sessions on the superbarn 118.

The chassis has had the skirt - which is pretending to be the main frames - added to the bottom.

I've also marked and drilled the holes for the bogie pivot bolts, which seems a more challenging operation now after discovering I'd drilled then off-centre on 150 initially.

I've also created the false roof which will keep the body rigid and retain the glazing.

 Himself will fit a brass roof skin in due course.

The other thing I've done is clean up the interior castings.

I made these before we went away but I will wait until the underside of the chassis is finished before I glue them into place.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Growing Season

Foliage has been sprouting on the layout in recent days.

Firstly, Himself has added the long grass to the area around the back of the houses.

It still needs to be trimmed so that it is not quite so hairy.

He's also been making the old barn look more at home it its surroundings.

I do like the variety in the colours which makes the scene look more untamed.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Tried And Trusted

Our approach to scenery is reassuringly traditional and our favourite way of creating bumply and lumpy ground it's the tried and trusted method of chicken wire covered with Mod Roc and then plaster.

With the houses fixed in position Himself has moved on to creating the landscape behind them.

There is a big step in the land immediately behind the houses which is represented here by the pieces of wood you can see, which also act as the anchor point for the staples which fix the wire in position.

In the picture below, taken a couple of days later, you can see the area now with its coat of plaster brushed on.

The next stage will be plant it with very hairy long grass.

Monday, 17 July 2017

The Gap Is Gone

It hasn't taken Himself long to get the new house painted and glazed - including that rather fiddly conservatory.

It does look very obviously empty but perhaps they're waiting for some new furniture to arrive?

Obviously there's still the landscaping and garden to be built up around it and the same goes with the parking area outside the front of the property.

Stepping back a little and looking at it in its surroundings I've very pleased with how this scene has developed.

I haven't looked back to see how many years it's taken to build all these houses - it must be at least 5 if not 6 - but it's been time well spent I think.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Full Bloom

Himself has been busy adding some finishing scenic touches around the housing estate.

The gardens at the back of the row of houses behind the cutting have had a basic treatment of 'greenness' for some time but now he has gone back and finished off the gardens with hedges, bushes, trees and other sorts of foliage.

The lawns have been completed with static grass, which is all very impressive for a part of the layout which only really gets seen by the operators.

He has also given the extended roadway a coat of paint - it's hard to see the join - and the kerb stones have been put back.

Now the missing house is finished - you can see it in position at the top of the picture - he can get on with fixing the rest of that row in their positions.

I still have the final three properties which form a row at the front to fill that gap in the open baseboard, but that can wait until after I've caught up with a few more carriages.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Unnecessary Expense

Don't you just hate it when you end up spending money when you didn't need to?

I really doesn't do much for the old cash flow.

I'm kicking myself for prematurely investing in a batch of styrene strips thinking I'd need them to finish off the guttering on the house.

(And incidentally, I was shocked by how much this imported American product - which is very good - costs now. Could it be the 'B' word to blame?)

Anyway, no sooner had I clicked on the order than I discovered some off-cuts lurking at the bottom of my styrene store which were just enough to finish off the window ledges and the down pipes, and then Himself brought over an almost unused packet of U section strip for the gutters, so I've been able to complete the house.

The final task was to bend and fit a question mark-shaped ventilation pipe which sticks out of the roof at one end.

Over to Himself for painting and glazing now.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Here Comes The Sun (Room)

I had been concerned that the conservatory was going to be too flimsy, being fabricated out of 20 thou strip.

Since then, though, I have added on some brick courses on the bottom and a floor which has made the whole thing a lot more solid, so I was worrying over nothing.

I shall not join it together, nor glue it onto the side of the house, just yet because Himself won't thank me for that when he comes to fit the glazing and paint it.

Even so, I can pose it in position to show you what the finished effect is going to look like.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Glass Ceiling

Or more likely polycarbonate....but that pun doesn't work so well.

I've had a go at making up the roof of the conservatory, which is a very simple ladder-style piece to fabricate.

I've not glued it together yet, because it might be that Himself would find it easier to cut out the glazing pieces while it is still in bits, but this picture (with it tackled together) gives an impression of what it's going to look like.

I'm quite satisfied with the way it's looking but now, when I see how much you can see inside, whether I'm going to have to try to make some stuff to go in it?

Friday, 7 July 2017

Lean On Me

The second session on the conservatory has involved fabricating the side sections which have the sloping roof.

Again there is a large degree of guesitmation involved.

I've assumed that not only is there an inward-opening door but that there is one on each end.

With the three parts made up they have been glued together so the basic shape of the structure emerges.

For a time I did consider whether I should make these up and cast copies from resin to make the structure more rigid and stronger.

I do hope I don't regret not doing that.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017


A snap decision to have a night out at the theatre by the ladies of the house meant I had an unforeseen opportunity to do a little more work on the house, so I decided I might as well have a crack at the conservatory.

This is another one of those features which is going to require a large degree of assumption, because I don't have much information to work from.

The one picture I have seen shows me that it is a modern uPVC structure and I've taken a guess that it is one of those designs where the windows go all the way to the floor all around rather than having a waist-height wall all around.

Thankfully it is quite a simple, lean-to, three-sided design with a flat sloping ceiling, rather than one of those ornate, octagonal structures.

So the first stage is to make the main section which runs along the front and which, I reckon, is comprised of a pair of sliding patio doors.

I've made this using 20 thou thick styrnene strips.

I do hope it won't prove to be too flimsy.

Much like the carriages it will rely on the glazing behind to act as a structural member and prevent it from sagging.

Monday, 3 July 2017

House Details

When a project is nearing completion it's not always obvious when new bits are added onto it.

So it is with the 'half and half' house I've been working on, but there are a few new features to point out

The ridge tiles have been added to complete the roof - and the chimney pot put in place as well - and I've added the usual couple of rows of bricks that are visible beneath the render.

The outstanding jobs now are the window ledges and the guttering.

Oh, and that damned conservatory on the back, too.

Saturday, 1 July 2017


Some ground works are required before all the new houses can be planted in position on the layout.

The first task is to widen to road through the estate a little and extend it down the hill.

Himself never does anything by half so a selection of G clamps were use to ensure the plywood base stayed in position while the glue dried overnight.

While the road was setting he did more more in the garden on the house at the top of the row, painting the plaster a nice soil colour and adding a stone wall around the boundary.

For this we use the Ten Commandments plaster wall units.

Putting the camera down at eye level at the end of the road I think it's starting to look a very effective scene, don't you think?

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Chimney Challenge

I took a notion to get one of the most tricky jobs remaining on the house out of the way - the chimney.

What makes it challenging on this house is that it is built into the corner of the upper storey.

Usually I make the chimneys as stand-alone, four sided tubes which are glued in place on the roof as a finished unit.

This time, because of all the cut-aways that are needed I opted to build it up in situ as these series of pictures show.

It doesn't seem like the most difficult of tasks, I grant you, but for some reason I'm hopeless with cutting angles so I am please to get this job out of the way.