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Photographer, scribbler, model maker, beer fancier, self confessed train nutter & general nerd.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Brew Street Update

Brew Street update. Starting to look like a layout with the J15 looking very at home here. It's ex-box, so will need renumbering and grubbing up a little.

Nothing is fixed down, so apologies for the wonky bits.

Could this be Somewhere on the Suffolk coast?

Monochrome edit to hide the bright orange clay. I'll paint it shortly. Work in progress, with much still to do...

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Point of No Return

Extending Brew Street from its original 2 x 1 feet to a whopping 4 x 1 - I think I've reached the point of no return.

In its original format, I could never see me taking it to a show. I'd have been pulling my own teeth out after 15 mins. I might last up to an hour after the extension. Operation isn't really my thing. If I didn't do the odd show I wouldn't even wire them up. 😱

The right hand side will feature a larger canal wharf with a few boats exiting through a heavily embellished Metcalfe factory entrance. Sort of Snape Quay/malting like. Just had to be done with that arch!

I was asked to do the Metcalfe factory for a magazine feature, but it's silly it gathering dust with no home. The original concept of Brew Street was designed to use spare buildings and other clutter up, whilst having a bit of freelance fun, so this will carry that on.

I need to finish this within 4 weeks to make way for commercial stuff. All going well I'll be linking it to Fountain Colliery at Wycrail first Saturday of November.

I'm using baseboard kits from www.timhorn.co.uk

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Extending Brew Street

A little messing about to possibly extend Brew Street. And in anticipation I've ordered another diorama case from www.timhorn.co.uk to match Brew Street's, however a little carpentry will be required to turn it in to one big case - a mammoth 4 x 1 feet in total!

Brew Street, built last Autumn over 2 weeks was a spontaneous project using up spare bits and bobs, so this carries on that theme. In the past I've built quite a few serious projects (handmade everything including track), but from time to time it's fun to do a quickie.

When planning layouts I like to do mock ups using structures and templates, a pleasing composition is important to me, especially due to the fact that photography plays an important roll in displaying and sharing the layout to a wider audience. I'm not a huge fan of exhibiting, more often than not I'm performing with my band at weekends (my other interest).

I have to get this one finished by mid October to make way from some new commercial modelling projects, a business area I'm slowly moving in to as part of a lifestyle change away from the rat race. The book is filling up.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

60 Years Ago

60 years ago today, Johnson 1P No. 58086 departs Combwich through an early morning late summer mist. This loco sadly was withdrawn just 2 years later. What a shame none survived in to preservation.

The model is one of the very few brass kits I've built, this one being by the Craftsman range. It has January 1982 scratched on to the underside.

I believe one of the ready to run manufacturers has one planned for the future, which will no doubt make this model look rather crude. This will run better though, I had the chassis commercially rebuilt for me by a 'man who can' a few years ago, and now it runs a dream all day long.

Click on the above photo for a bigger version.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Working in Card

I've been asked to 'enhance' a Metcalfe printed card kit. Mostly involves adding card overlays to formerly printed detail along with a slap of paint. I hold my hand up to the quoins not being quite right. The water tower and chimney buildings have yet to be treated, hopefully a job for this weekend.
The 'olive', on the top of the tower will be replaced with a weather vane when I source or fabricate one.

Here's the very well designed kit https://www.metcalfemodels.com/product/po284-00-h0-boilerhouse-factory-entrance/

Click on the photos above and below for a much bigger version...

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Cheap Tip!

Click to enlarge
Here's a cheap trick for fans of the 3 foot rule (don't get too close basically)....

Some budget yard lamps, barbecue skewer, bent nail, a slice of plastic tube, splash of paint, job done. They look fine from normal viewing distance. You won't break them when you collide with them, if anything you'll draw blood. Of course they don't work, but hey, the sun is out, so they wouldn't be lit.

Knocked up 9 in around an hour (from 3 skewers chopped in to 3). Cost maybe around 15p in total. Bish bash bosh!

An old (or new, if you're posh) bamboo blind can make a good source of 'timber' too. This hobby does not need to be expensive.
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Smartphone experiment

iPhone 7 photo as shot, note bleached highlights and clogged out shadows. Click for a bigger view
Love them or hate them, for mobile phones are very much part of every day life. For me it's my calendar, diary, sat nav, point of contact, and these days increasingly my out and about camera, unless I'm doing a proper photoshoot. Occasionally, very occasionally I use it as a telephone as well!
An edited shot, adjusting shadow and highlight detail, as well as rewriting the white balance. Click for a bigger view
Adobe produce their well known photo editor Lightroom for mobile devices as a free app. There are many good editors out there like Google's rather excellent Snapseed, but Lightroom allows you to shoot in RAW/DNG format by opening up the phone's camera in the app and then selecting the RAW option. 

Enthusiastic photographers will know that shooting RAW has many advantages over in-camera JPEG, with one of the best being far more control over highlights, shadows, incorrect exposure, noise, white balance after shooting on the comfort of your home. The downside of shooting RAW/DNG is that the files are far bigger - much bigger!

Mobile phones tend not to give great results under artificial or low light, with colours being frequently off or muddy. So as a test, I thought I'd see how much better results could be using the Lightroom app to shoot a few snaps of one of my layouts, and then exporting the DNG/RAW file to Photoshop on my laptop to extract what I could out of the mobile phone images (an iPhone 7 in this case). I could of course edit a traditionally shot with the smart phone camera JPEG, but adjustment, especially white balance is very limited. Editing the RAW/DNG file allows far more control in this respect because you are accessing the original data before it's turned in to a JPEG in your phone which loses much of the data.

Okay, I'm blabbering and running out of time, I'll do a better feature on this if interest suffices!

Monday, 1 May 2017

Exit Right - Fountain Colliery Update

Yesterday I dedicated time to sorting out the right hand side where trains exit stage. Disappearing roads in to a backscene are a problem, whist they can look ok to the eye, they rarely work in photographs. With the day job snapping model railways for the popular press, I encounter this frequently, so wished to avoid this with my own modelling which is more likely to be seen online than at shows (One or two shows for me a year are quite enough).

As a workaround, my bits and bobs box had a nice set of gates crying out to be used (I think there were off some long gone Bachmann ready to plonk buildings). So, with those in place, I wonder what is beyond those forbidding gates? Some Adams Family type lair? The local inbred gentry along the lines of Sir Henry at Rawlinson End? A top secret cult? RMweb? A government covert operations centre? I imagine we'll never know. I'm open to suggestions of course...

The warning signs are reused from old old layout that lost its crossing. They're scratch from some bits of plastic, a splash of paint and a computer printed sign.

The little pre war car is from a white metal Springside kit made many years ago. Austin 7s were tiny little cars, it looks under scale, but it is in fact quite right. In the UK, pre-war cars were still quite a feature right through to the 1960's, we did a lot more make do and mend in those days.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Fountain Colliery - housebound

This weekend's progress. I've been stuck at home with Norovirus (probably picked up at some music jam I imagine - my other interest), so with certain facilities being nearby an ideal excuse for a bit of Model making. These latest grabs give an idea of how it's all going.

I need to make more tress mostly, the collieries in the Forest of Dean really merged with nature. Last night I did the pond/bog in the foreground. I'm hoping Saffy the cat hasn't been on it overnight, it's a bit sticky with a thin layer of gloss. I also need ferns, dozens and dozens of them.

I've 6 or so weeks to go to the exhibition debut at The Warminster Expo on Saturday 17 June, so hopefully plenty of time to add lots of detail. I'll be next to Paul Marshall Potter of Albion Yard fame with his delightful 'Shelfie', so expect us to form the naughty corner.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Fountain Colliery! We Have a Name!

I've finally a name for my Forest of Dean project - Fountain Colliery - it sort of sounds 'Forest of Deany', probably because of a well known pub in Parkend that the real trains would rumble past with their loads of free mined coal or aggregate.

I've the Warminster Show booked for the 17th of June, so thought it only fair to give the punters a name. The hitherto 'Forest of Dean Project' not really running off the tongue.

So here goes, a very concise run through of what's been going on over the last few weeks. As usual click on the images for a bigger view.

Ballasting - starting with regular sand fixed in to place with diluted PVA 'in the time honoured way*' (*sounds better is you say it with a squeaky voice for that 'old school' tweed clad model railway expert effect). DAS clay is then smeared over and tamped down for a smooth effect. More on that here HERE

Next, paint is slapped on with interior emulsion 'matchpots', the sides of the rail and chairs are later dry brushed with a chocolate or rusty shade. Best not overdone, just a hint.

The static grass is applied everywhere - using winter and autumn shades, those colour being about right for late summer early autumn. WWS Scenics kind sent me some of their new self adhesive grass clumps to try out, you can see a few of those. I rather like them.

Foliage has also been added to where the 3D meets the 2D - that was mainly achieved with Sea Foam and flock. A little Halfords Red Primer was misted over the resulting bushes and trees to give them that September look - before placing on the layout of course! Before you ask, you can find a post about the Cornish engine house here!

On Sunday I started to address the let hand side with an elevated tub run knocked up with some 3mm foam board clad in corrugated plastic card. The panelling effect was achieved by a movable mask and dry-brushing greys and browns. On the left you can see the foundations of the bog with iron polluted water pumped up for deep down underground.

All a bit brief? I'm currently penning a series of features for Model Rail mag....

That's it for this post.... plenty more to do, sitting and typing here won't get any of it done - see ya!

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Forest of Dean Colliery Update

Progress is now moving forward at a good rate. So much so that I hope to be taking it to a show in Warminster on Saturday the 17th of June. Well, that's the plan, I do have a standby layout just in case.

The track is now laid and wired up, above we see the basic diorama style presentation. Built in lighting has also been added. I use photographic bulbs, they give a good level of light, without being too cool or warm.

View looking stage exit right, the pub provides a good scenic break. There will be a level crossing there too.

The track plan here, subject to a few changes should give an idea of where I'm going with this. Foot print is around 4ft 3" by 1 foot deep.

Preparing the backscene, using Halfords automotive paint on to card. Most of the backscene will be hidden behind trees and buildings, so nothing too detailed or complicated is fine.

The card backscene was later inserted in to the diorama case and glued in to place. The pegs are just holding the top in place while the glue sets. PVA in this case.

The track has also been ballasted using sand. This is just a sub layer, a slurry of modelling clay will form a fine screed over the top to give the impression of fine cinders and clinker. The later colouring, which will be far removed from the clean and clinical look here.

The photo taken on my Polbrook Gurney Colliery layout will demonstrate where all this is going! It can be tricky at times to imagine the finished result. Luckily this is a proven method. Fingers crossed!!

Here is my deadline! Gulp.

Ps. Here's an old blog post from a few years ago explaining my ballasting in greater detail. http://nevardmedia.blogspot.co.uk/2011/08/creating-effect-of-ash-ballast.html

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Tuesday Photo

Click for a bigger view
44417 carefully propels a rake of empties up the gradient in to Polbrook Gurney Colliery. Note the ancient tipping wagons to the right. It's likely they were used for removal of spoil.

The 4F started life as an Airfix model dating from around 1982. Recently I commissioned Phillip Hall to pop a decent chassis under it. Phil, with his amazing mechanical skills has made it fully compensated with pick ups on every wheel including tender. It sticks to the track like a limpet, and has an incredible pulling power. To try to match the fabulous chassis, I performed some cosmetic work on the rest of the engine with a new paint job and lots of extra detail. This one really is a keeper, and the odd time I do an exhibition, this little beastie will run all weekend even on the dirtiest track without missing a beat.

The contractor's wagons are part of a rake of 3, from the excellent RT Models white metal kit range.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Ahead of its time?

Dug this late 1970s Airfix 14xx out the other day. I recall it was one of my first weathering exercises around 1980 using airbrushing and dry brushing. I also added etched cabside plates.

The body with separate handrails and other detail was well ahead of its time for UK outline back then. I think it still looks pretty good. Sadly the chassis is quite the opposite, almost 40 years on it's s very much a non-runner. Might be worth putting something else under there from Comet or High Level in due course.

Here is the little locomotive posed on Brew Street, my recent 'nano' layout.

Above photo grabbed on the new (ish) iPhone 7, click on it for a bigger version.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

On track...

Forest of Dean Project update...
Cork sheet as a track underlay is so 2007 darhlings...
I lay my track on 6mm foam board, then insert and glue it in to the diorama case. It's much easier to align the trackwork properly outside the diorama case. That Bertie #borderterrier supervising.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Cornish Engine House

The latest building for my Forest of Dean project.

Knocked up the last week on and off; a scratch built 'Cornish Engine house', which would have been used to pump a mine free of excess water. It's made from embossed plastic card, cornflake packs and coffee stirrers.

The stone courses don't quite match nearest the cam because I'm a bodger. Some ivy growing up the side will take care of that as a bodger's fix! The building on the right and chimney are Skytrex mouldings. Scale 1/76. The engine house is around 8 inches high (20cm).

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Ready for the NEC

Click to enlarge!
Just doing final bits to Brew Street for the NEC (it will be on the Model Rail mag stand). I have very limited space, so the fiddle/staging yards are just a couple of modified cassettes. They clip on either end as and when required. 

The built in lighting holds its own even in daylight. Punters at shows are like moths, they are attracted to bright lights. Tip; if you have a really crappy layout, light it nice and brightly - they'll come flocking to it like bargain hunters to the model railway manufactures'  when they're flogging off all the old tat at the NEC Warley Show first thing Saturday!

A proper feature on the build of this layout is in the current Model Rail magazine (December 2016 / No. 229)


Tuesday, 15 November 2016

In Print

Part 1 of my little microwave sized nano-trainset has just appeared in Dec 2016 Model Rail magazine. The feature covers the first stage of the build, with plenty of illustrations of my kack-handed bodgings which try to fool people in to thinking that I know what I'm doing.

Click photo for BIGGER image

Yesterday, I penned part 2 for the January 2016 issue of Model Rail which will be out in around 4 weeks from this blog date. Or if you're reading this post in 5 years time - look on Ebay! The photo above is destined for part 2 - don't tell my editor though!

The little 'trainset' should be on the Model Rail stand at the NEC Warley Show on 26/27 November 2016 for people to poke, prod and generally comment on just how much smaller it is than they thought it would be. It really is small, imagine a foot print two A4 sheets of paper end to end - that's it!
Model Rail is available in all good news agents and super markets, all for just £3.95 - around the price of a pint around these parts! www.model-rail.co.uk

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Grubbing Up

First stage of weathering up the Model Rail limited edition USA tank. I don't want it to look like it's been in Barry Scrapyard for 5 years like many do, more a warm oily rag look of a working engine. Click for a bigger version.

I'll leave it for a few days before tackling it again with finer localised weathering. Weathering is best something not rushed, it's easy to overdo things in 'one sitting'. I'll need to sort out a crew too.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Combwich Box

A little signal box I knocked up in the very early 1980's from plastic card, bits of card and some clear packaging. It needs a little tender loving. Click on the above photo for a bigger view.

It's survived 35 or so years quite well. The celluloid glazing (with frames drawn on with a bow pen and gouache paint) has distorted over time sadly. Some nice etched frames would be nice, but it's unlikely I'd be able to find something off the shelf. Might have to dig out the bow pen again and a slightly stiffer clear plastic sheet.

The little building is based on a standard London & South Western design, I think from some plans in a magazine from the time. Magazines 'back in the day' would often feature such plans drawn to popular scales. The scale of this model being 1/76.

I've posed it on my latest little project (purely because it has some nice bright lights built in) called Brew Street. Use the Combwich and Brew Street 'labels' below for more about those layouts.

Friday, 28 October 2016


Thursday afternoon saw the final wiring go in to place. I won't show you that, because I'm no ambassador of layout electrics. Just imagine a few random wires. That's all I'll say on that matter. It works though.

Point operation is simple, just wooden knobs attached to wood dowels with a bit of wire poking up through the baseboard to the point tie bar. Push. Pull. Easy. Cheap.

Note the 'acoustic' controller, a trusty Gaugemaster feed back style hand held unit. No DCC for me, I've tried it, and do own some Lenz DCC thing, but prefer the analogue approach (I prefer acoustic guitar to electric as well, works in a power cut too). I've far too much stock, and even if there were enough hours in the day to convert it all, I really cannot justify the cost. I only really play trains at model railway shows - maybe one or two shows a year.

I still need to sort out out a couple of fiddle yards, I do have two generic cassette yards I use for all my layouts, but they're really too big for such a tiny layout.

Brew Street will form part of the Model Rail stand at the Warley MRC show at the NEC Birmingham 26 & 26 November 2016. See you there.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Having a Quickie

Click to enlarge
One Sunday afternoon, I was up in my railway room having a rare tidy up, and whilst looking at those ‘wall flower projects’ (things we’ve built, but have no home; they sit on shelves not joining the railway party) we all have. I wondered if some of them could be incorporated in to a small ‘quickie’ project, a project that could be completed in a very much shorter time than previous layouts.
Click to enlarge
I had a spare made up ‘Tim Horn’ laser cut baseboard (2 x 1 foot / 65 x 30 cm), so I grabbed a few of the buildings to see if I could make up some kind of workable composition that a railway could fit in to.

Click to enlarge
The whole project took around 50 hours spread over two weeks.
You'll be able to read more about this and how it was done in the next Model Rail magazine www.model-Rail.co.uk out in around 3 weeks. The little layout will be on show on the Model Rail stand at the NEC Birmingham 26 & 27 November 2016. Pop by and say hello!

Saturday, 14 November 2015

New Layout!

Having pondered for long enough, a Forest of Dean inspired layout will be my next project. Time now will be devoted to research and book buying mostly. I find that aspect vital for capturing the right feel. This new book from Black Dwarf Lightmoor makes a great starting point http://lightmoor.co.uk/view_book.php?ref=L9983
The size of the scenic diorama type set up here is 6' 6" x 12" (2m x 30cm)

For the first time ever, I'm trying out some laser cut baseboard kits from  www.timhorn.co.uk

A scene that could pass for somewhere in the Forest of Dean in the mid-1960's. It's a scene from my 'Ironstone' project, I may well physically extract this cameo and incorporate it in to the new bigger project with a little brute force and recolouring! Quarrying was quite a feature of the Forest of Dean area.

As part of the process I'll make mock ups of possible scenarios using any old buildings kicking about in the parts/spares/reject bin to try to get an idea.