Friday, October 7, 2016

Once more unto the breach...

Here we go again then. It appears that I am well on the way to building a new micro layout. The spark generated by the finding of the old munitions layout structures and placing them in an APA box has turned into something more serious.
Having much of the material ready to hand has certainly helped for after a few days I already have something looking like a model railway.
The first thing was to delve into my supply of APA boxes and make one.
I made one change in the build. I didn't put a floor in, just in case access was needed to wiring as well as being able to access coach bolts that would be used to join the fiddle yards. Erring on the side of caution, I also added a brace to the frame. I'm not entirely sure that this is needed, as APA boxes are very well made, and my chosen baseboard material 10mm cork faced foam core is light and rigid. Still, "Better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it." I always say.
Box constructed, brace added and holes cut in the sides for fiddle yard access
I came across the 10mm foam core in Michaels craft store quite by accident. I think it was planned to be the basis of cork notice board projects or something similar, But I immediately thought of it as perfect as a micro layout baseboard, much like the APA box. at 30" x 20" it had to be trimmed to fit inside the APA. but it looks good in there.
Baseboard surface in place.
With that in place. I could begin on the track planning. The size of the structure dictated the track plan would be a simple Inglenook. Each siding would hold about three of the wagons based on Bachmann vee skips I'd worked on before.
Concept being developed. Track placed, view blocks being established.
Inlaid track is an important feature of this model. Originally I'd considered making this from 5mm foam core board as that matched the height of the code 100 track I was using. But as I cut more and more of it to test the idea the less I liked it. So I tried styrene sheet instead. Liking that much better as things developed.
But as I test fitted foam core flooring I noticed how good things were looking.
The right hand side. I might model a blast door across the track to hide the exit to the fiddle yard.
Left hand side. The view block room in front hides the exit very well.
I like the angles, the viewpoints, the way the tracks appear and disappear off stage. The two offices in the middle are ripe for being detailed. In my minds eye I can start to see the walls and roof of the cave starting to take shape. Things are going well.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Going Underground: Redux

You all know me. I have problems when it comes to model railways. I have too many influences and come up with too many ideas. Why, currently there are layouts micro layouts in H0 and 00 scale being built, as well as layouts being investigated in H0n30 and Z scale. Add to that Purespring watercress in Gn15 sat in retirement, and and my H0/00 scale Nowhere/British Oak loading point layout in storage and you can see I have issues...
I need a clear out in the model railway room.
I started with the best of intentions.
"Never throw anything away" is one of my mottos. It's probably why I have so much stuff in the model railway room in the first place.
One of the first things I found was some structures from an idea I had for a 1:35n2 underground munitions store layout.
The original Underground munitions store layout concept.
It was one of the first layout plans I posted on this blog, back in 2006. The idea goes back even further than that. I kept the buildings and rolling stock I'd started on because I thought the whole concept was a good idea and I was sure I'd come back to it one day.
That might well have been today.
I looked at the structures and wondered to myself if they would fit into an APA box...
A new layout perhaps?
The result of the wonderings is clear to see. The structures do fit in quite obviously. The track plan as laid is a simple "tuning fork" design. Though it would be easy to fit in an extra siding in front given the short size of the flat wagons I converted from Bachmann On30 vee skips. On the track at back you can see the Eimco compressed air loco I started work on at one point. 
A cave wall would be an interesting scenic development and murky lighting would add to atmosphere.
Clearing out the model railway room has come to a stop.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Life in the old blog yet.

Oh my. Would you just look at that? Four and a half years since I posted to this, the most popular of my blogs. It's not that I wasn't producing model railways. Those were APA box layouts and got posted on the APA box blog. Then my famous Purespring watercress layout got refurbished for its 10 year anniversary and that went into its own Facebook page. Too much stuff going on and too many places to report them. There's a lesson to learn there I think.
But I digress...
One thing that had stimulated my creative juices in the interim had been the discovery of pictures of the Naksup wayfreight in Alaska and its car float operations. I had investigated this quite thoroughly and built up quite a library of reference material. However, life got in the way and the project got shelved.
That was until a few days ago, when I discovered the Saxman Terminal Railroad, also in Alaska. A remarkably compact site, the entire length of the system was be less than a mile in length and there was only one turnout. Model Railroader magazine delights in producing schemes for an 8' x 4' baseboard, well here's an entire railroad you could fit in that size with almost no compression.
Saxman terminal. It looks to be out of use, but the marks of the track can be traced easily.
When I had previously investigated car floats for a layout I was thinking in terms of Z scale so my thoughts were drawn there. You could model the entire location in about 3' 6" x 2'. It's a very interesting locale, from many points of view.
My interest was most definitely piqued. Studying the pictures I realized that the Micro Trains through girder bridge could be used as a basis for the car float bridge. As I happened to have a couple of them in my possession I decided to see if my thoughts were right. I think they were.
Piers were added from 6.5mm styrene tube 
Decking added from embossed styrene sheet.
Of course, the dock is only any good if you can have a car float berth at it. So I gave some thought to the construction of a car float. The pictures that follow are a "proof of concept" rather than a scale model, just to see if it works. I buried MTL roadbed track into a styrene substructure and got this.
Car float model. the cars run on the track and don't derail.
After that it was a natural thing to want to see how everything looked together.
It looks OK, doesn't it?
It's very tempting indeed to want to carry this on and develop it further. Now I need to look further into how I would present an idea like this to the viewing public. Watch this space, or perhaps even the Facebook page The Model Railways of Ian Holmes


Saturday, April 21, 2012

APA Box model Railroading

Once again I make a foray into the blogosphere. This time I'm finally coming clean about my experiment with the APA box.
You will be able to follow that blog here I do hope that you'll stop by.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Pendon - Part 2 The Vale Scene

Nothing can prepare you for The Vale Scene. 
Sounds a bit like a tag line for a movie doesn't it? Perhaps I'm overhyping it a bit.
Perhaps not.
Take a look at the picture below. This is the view that greets you at the top of the stairs from the Dartmoor scene. It's nothing much. A view across countryside in 4mm scale. A clump of trees, a railway embankment and not much else. Then you realise that the backscene is about 15 feet away. 
The "nothingness", the space is almost overpowering. In this hobby of ours we are used to dealing with selectively compressed scenes and many modellers advocate using buildings in smaller scales as you recede to the horizon to create the illusion of distance. Here there is no compression, no use of smaller scale buildings to create the illusion of distance. See that farm in the distance? It's 4mm scale too.

 Above: Then there is the structure modelling that Pendon is rightly famous for. Finely finished highly detailed structures, built from card and painted with watercolours. That's right, no embossed styrene sheets here. Each model is painstakingly built from card and the bricks and stonework are embossed and then painted by hand. The roofing tiles are either applied individually or in singles rows depending on the builder. A typical structure like this one probably has in the region of 200 hours work invested in it. I remember seeing Pendon Cottage modeller extraordinaire Chris Pilton doing a demonstration stand at a show many years ago. I was amazed that people could do such work. I remember going away inspired and building my own superdetailed buildings for a while. My guide tried to get me to contribute to Pendon by building something. I was honoured to be asked. Do my standards reach those advocated by Pendon? There is of course only one way to find out.
Above: A bus drives down a country lane. Nothing else. So incredibly natural and realistic.
Above: A slice of English country life now gone.
Above: This farm scene is beautiful.
Above: Even though the railway runs through the Vale, in the time I was there I only noticed one train running through it.
This last picture shows the full depth of the Vale scene. From here the backscene is over 70 feet away that's one scale mile.
The day I was there, thanks to inclement weather overnight, attendance was low so my wife and I were lucky enough to basically have personal guided tours of the Vale scene. So we were able to have lots of the details pointed out to us. I, as a modeller, was able to discuss some of the techniques and what it takes to model for Pendon.
I hope these pictures have whetted your appetite to visit Pendon and you make a visit in the near future. Being close to a Oxford, a major tourist centre, it should be easy for any self respecting modeller to trade a trip to Pendon against visiting some of the historical sights there. Should your significant other (and family) though it is very likely that everyone will come away having enjoyed a trip to Pendon.
So what can we small layout railway modellers learn from Pendon?
You'd probably think "nothing at all" being that Pendon is over 1,000 times larger than my latest APA box creation. But I think you'd be very wrong.
The importance of space. Yes, Pendon takes this to the extremes but I think that we small layout modellers tend to think that because we have small layouts it's important to cram as much track as we can into the area to get good operation. Not so. Absorb the details of the real landscape, see how buildings relate to each other. Only in intense urban situations are buildings slapped down one next to another, one on top of another. I feel each structure, each wagon/car needs its own "space". I know there are people feel uncomfortable when someone violates their own "personal space" in a crowded area. Shouldn't we accord that same respect for space on our model railways?
Attention to detail. This one is absolutely blindingly obvious. Detail draws viewers into the model, to look closely. To spend more than a minute looking at your display. Detail doesn't have to be a fully furnished room interior. Though if you have a structure at the front of your model with plenty of windows I certainly suggest putting a high level of detail in there. Of course I don't just mean detail on that level.

There you go two things you can take away from Pendon and employ on your layouts that will make your layouts better. My, this was a long post I hope you weren't too bored by it.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Pendon - An inspirational interlude - part one

I have just returned from a 10 day holiday back home in England. OK, so January/February is a strange time of year to go but happy family circumstance dictated the time of year, so we were more than happy to be there. We, (the wife and I) also got time to do some touristy sight seeing in Lincoln, London and Oxford. Of particular importance to this blog was our trip to Pendon, the world famous "Museum of miniature landscape and Transport modelling" to give it its proper title. It is an absolute treat for model makers of all disciplines but particularly railway modellers. 
There are three models to see there, all famous, if not legendary in the railway modelling world. First to see is John Aherns' "Madder Valley Railway". Its attention to detail and realistic approach to the presentation of the models is nothing unusual by todays standards but when this layout was built in the 1930's it was unheard of. The Railway is totally fictitious with narrow gauge locomotives stretched to Standard gauge proportions and structures (some freelanced) and locations from all over England. But the whole thing comes together to make a perfectly believable whole.
The layout is still operable but due to its great age is only operated a few times a year.
Above: The railway station at the town of Gammon Magna
Above: The approaches to Madderport.
The Next layout you see as you tour the building is the Dartmoor scene. Inspired by the railways of South Devon, a single track branch line struggles across Dartmoor to reach a junction station where trains meet the main line. The model itself must be about 30 feet long with the centrepiece being the 13 foot long model of a typical Great Western Railway Timber viaduct. The model has a definite operating sequence of trains that would typically be found on such a branch line. These trains are described in detail by one of the many Pendon volunteers on hand.
These two pictures show (below) the famous timber viaduct and above the small run down farmhouse that sits at the foot of it, and can just be seen in the picture beneath.
These models themselves would be enough for most modellers. But nothing can prepare you for the Vale scene that comes next. So in the best television "cliff hanger" tradition I'm going to let you wait a while before I share that with you.
Then I'll ramble on a bit about what we modellers of small layouts can learn from such huge models.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Moving with the times

It's the twenty-first century. The times, as Bob Dylan sang, they are a changin'. Railway modellers are using computer software to design their layouts and artists are using iPads to produce masterpieces. There's been a lot of talk in the English press about the great artist David Hockney and the works of art he is currently churning out on an iPad . Hockney has always intrigued me. I can't say I've always liked his stuff but he has the knack of inspiring me to look at things differently. 
So, you are saying. "What the devil does this have to do with small model railway layout design?" 
Well, the sketch below was produced on an iPad. 

It looks a bit different to my usual sketches.
It's most definitely a layout scheme that would most probably fit in an APA box. It's heavily inspired by Purfleet Quay in Kings Lynn. A wonderful location that really screams out to be modelled with railway tracks in it. The Customs House is a stunningly beautiful building that I have harboured* dreams of modelling since I discovered it quite by accident attending the Kings Lynn model railway exhibition one year.  The layout would certainly work in 00 scale in an APA box perhaps even Scalefour. In fact I just offered my A5 turnout and P4 flex track up to an APA box and it looks like it would work. The stock would be short wheelbase diesels or steam shunters and short wheelbase four-wheeled wagons. The warehouses at the rear would have working cranes on the top floor to capture the attention of the viewers. I have made working cranes before and I know that they do get the attention of the viewer.
The sketch itself was produced using the Adobe Ideas App on my iPad 1. I've been messing with the App for a while off and on and I'm just getting to be happy with what I'm producing. So I feel ready to share my sketches with you. It's still early days yet I'll see how the technique develops.

*pun intended