Tag Archives: scenery

Packer Hill rework

After getting back from Chatham Exhibition, we took a break before erecting the scenic boards of Mauch Chunk. Once these were standing again, Gareth’s son, Celfyn (Welsh for Kelvin) found the boards were just the right height for climbing through! Steve’s daughter Anna’s dog, Bryn, is also with us for a couple of months while she moves into her first house (we hope) and he is being very sanguine about all the noise I am making rebuilding Packer Hill.

The first main task was demolishing the temporary polystyrene ‘hills’ at either end in order to construct the new, larger ones. Polystyrene sheets were laid and stuck together with various glues of various efficacies! Eventually, they all dried and we were able to carve them with a mixture of a multi-tool and knives. Baseboard edges were lined with plywood.

Once this was completed, the roadway was laid in ply around the edge of the hill above the track. The base of Flagstaff mountain is being similalry rebuilt.

The other issue we wanted to resolve is the use of Big Bear with our Lenz equipment. Remember that we fudged at Chatham exhibition and used an NCE PowerCab to control the pointwork. Peter, the developer of Big Bear, has been very helpful and has now managed to recode Big Bear to work with the Lenz 23150 USB/ethernet adaptor – brilliant! This means that we have been able to lay out the control board again and it has been made to fit into a Really Useful Box for transport and operation.

Scenic work starts

Richard has been doing some fantastic work extending the river wall at the left hand end of the layout. The river alignment at the RH end has also received some attention from Richard and Steve. Richard then painted the front fascia with grey undercoat and Gareth and Steve took the old varnish off the river bed preparatory to reworking it. Lastly and most recently, after some initial work by Richard, Gareth (shown) and Mike, Gavin has spray painted all the new track and roadbed a mucky color – nearly black!

November 2015 – layout

This last 8 or nine months has seen us tidying up from the extension on the scenic boards, building some trolleys, starting work on locomotive kitbashes and finally, hosting a visit from an American visitor!

The tidying up from the extension has seen us add scenic material to the right hand end where the layout has effectively now got a 2ft 6inch extension. This has meant carving out a hillside extension in polystyrene (held together with PVA glue) – a very messy job! We then covered this in plaster (pre-colored) and added the roadway with thin medium density fibreboard. Next the rockface was built from rock moulds and these were bedded in with a little judicious carving.

A grass material (from hanging baskets on this occasion) was attached onto PVA. The roadway was extended with colored ‘Artex filler’ material and the grass material was thinned with a beard trimmer (!) before being painted with thinned water based paint. Trees were added as previously described. The wall was extended using pre-moulded platicard and colored mainly with water based pencils to match.

The colored artex filler was used to touch up the gaps in the roadway that could now be filled since the front and back boards had been permanently attached. Artex is an amazing material and, once rewetted, blends in well with new material. Any imperfections can be corrected with a little thinned paint and, once dry, some sandpaper.

The trackwork was again ballasted with a mixture of coal dust and ash. the ballast was sprinkled onto a bed of PVA – painted between the tracks – and isopropanol (IPA) was then sprayed on to thoroughly wet it. Finally dilute PVA was added with a dropper to wet the ballast in between the ties and further IPA was sprayed on to spread it throughout. Once dry this has a matt finish with no trace of the shininess sometimes seen where PVA is used. The two LH photos below show this process in progress and the two RH photos where is has also been applied at the LH end of the layout and with the replaced switch.

While this was all going on, we had a visit from Joe Kacirek of New Jersey. To our embarrasment the layout ran very poorly but this prompted us to a better understanding of the electrics and a resolution to fix the problems. Joe was very understanding! Some photos from Joe’s visit show the stock out.

As a result of this, we have been involved in a continuous fixing of all the little electrical niggles, changing and repositioning switch motors, modifying software and changing cable connectors.

May 2012 – some more..

The great task of installing a continuous backscene finally started: A support of 4mm MDF was found to be flexible enough to curve round the ends and the two painted sheets that had previously been used in the middle were used (which is why the painted hills are in the wrong place at this stage). Suitable wooden supports and frame were built to provide more rigidity than hitherto. A new sheet was installed in the middle.

The intention is to use a continuous sheet of matt laminated paper or plastic, which we will paint before lamination. This will stand in between the backscene and the model (it has enough rigidity) and give the portable continuity, without any gaps, that we are seeking. It may even work!

To sit in front of the backscene, slightly 3D buildings – the courthouse and navigation building – are under construction. They are made of perspex and plywood which provides non-warping rigidity and ease of working. Roofs will be made of thick plasticard. These will be coated with matt laminated photos built up from mosaics as used in a flat form before.

Some more grass has been added to the between-tracks area following a close examination of some of the photos “from above” taken in this period. It looks as though a couple of buildings were removed, leaving unleached coal waste from underneath them on which no grass would grow. That’s my interpretation, anyway!

There’s still quite a lot of finishing off to do. Personally I have been levelling the kadees on all my stock and still need a few metal wheelsets. More DCC chips are beeing installed and a few items need remotoring. Biggest is scratchbuilding a CNJ signal bridge using brass etching (if you might be interested in getting one of these, please let me know and I will try and design the etch to handle 2, 3 or 4 track bridges).

Last but not least, an airbrush set-up is being assembled with the intention of serious (but subtle) weathering for everything. Years of fun to come!

So still a few bits to do before we can exhibit it again. A few other club members with American modelling interest are beginning to show their heads in our room, so we hope that we may have more help once Paul, Chris and Dave focus on their new creation.

May 2012 – little bits

Things slowed down somewhat after the exhibition. This was for a number of reasons: Firstly some of the group members wanted to move on and build another small layout. Second, the remainder want to make modifications to the staging yard using longer switches so that the stock will pass through it more reliably. However, how this is done (Plan A or Plan B) depends on whether we have more space for the layout and this depends on whether we are able to buy our clubhouse – which has been under negotiation for over a year, although the decision is close.

So, I (Steve) have done much of the modelling this last six months, ably assisted by Gordon, while Chris, Paul and Dave try to decide whether they want to build Patagonian narrow gauge or an LNER branch line. Paul continues to provide able support for the electrics! It’s been lots of little bits, plus trying to get the backscene sorted.

Firstly I have added a few detailed scenes with characters, carefully inserting the ends of pins into legs and then into the sidewalk! (yes, some did lose legs). Many more are still waiting mutilation and gender realignment to fit 1940/50s Mauch Chunk. Awnings were also added to some of the stores and trash was placed in the dead spaces where old buildings have been demolished.

Oval switchstand targets were etched in some quantity and then attached to a variety of commercial switchstands, together with or instead of lanterns, and then painted with enamels to give the desired effect. To date only a few of these have been installed on the layout as they are rather delicate and have a tendency to get flattened.

June-October 2011

These photos were taken from June through to October and provide a record of the work we did on the layout in that time period.

Dave spent a lot of time building the variety of telegraph poles and electric utility poles found in Mauch Chunk (according to our photos). These show them as built and weathered and then in situ – showing how they really add to the mood of the scenes.

Steve then did another brass etch including some fencing to go round the back of the park and some windows for the track sheds, which were then built by Chris from laser cut strip wood.

The Mikado M3 was painted for us (still to be weathered) and a Babyface A/B unit purchased from eBay, as the price has dropped since the ARHS body shells became available. Also another K1 unpainted from David in the UK.

Chris designed and built a new lighting gantry that can be transported in two parts but bolts together to give a single 15ft span so that the view of the model is not interrupted. Works brilliantly.

Last, but by now means least, Paul has modified and built DCC kit that gives us separate power supplies to the two directions of travel, so that shorts will only stop one direction at a time. The power has also been boosted so that locos with older motors can be run. As is so often the case, this was not photographed as it is under the layout – I’ll try and do better next time!

So by mid-October, everything was ready for the Warrington exhibition. See the photos on the Exhibition page.

May 2011

A lot of detailing work was done in early 2011: grass along the lineside using static grass, lineside fencing and some of the more ‘interesting’ telegraph poles that overhang the river! Additional foliage was also added in various places.

An attempt was made to provide some waves on the river to stop it being mistaken for a lake or a mill poind – sadly this failed. Whether this was operator incompetence or poor material we don’t know. The river was taken back to the base and reworked up to its previous shininess.

October 2010

Having settled in in our new room in the new premises, we had put down the rest of the sidewalks. Next was the roadway. This was made with a material we know in the UK as ‘Artex filler’. Artex was used back in the 1970s for creating swirling patterns on ceilings and walls but has now fallen out of fashion. It is a soft, flexible plaster with ‘higlights’ in which can be rewetted at any time and lightly reworked. In this case it was mixed with black acrylic to get various shades of grey.

Although the surface was rough when first laid after a few days of drying (our room is rather damp). the surface can be rubbed with fingers to give a smooth surface, and additional layers can be painted on and reworked in a few hours. As the material hardened, drain covers and kerb grills were pushed into it (for later painting).

Meanwhile, Paul and Chris started to get the front panels and lighting supports ready. Unfortunately, because of time constraints, we had to use a central support at the front which broke the panorama. The first picture below shows the addition of an unpainted backscene and the second shows the layout with only the layout lighting on.

Steve Painted the back panels assuming an angle of view that proved to be inconsistent with other perspectives but, hey, it worked on the day! These panels were only temporary for the exhibition, so he can have another go.

The park was ‘turfed’ with static grass using our Noch GrasMaster and four trees were added using the previously described techniques. Finally we started to dismantle the layout to take the boards to the show!

See out Exhibition page for more views of our incomplete, but now exhibitable, layout.

Moving – August 2010

Since May we have moved to new premises, still in Birkenhead, where we are fortunate to have our own room a little smaller than in our old premises. Despite this, progress is now good because we are committed to exhibit Mauch Chunk at our [end of] October Exhibition. Although it won’t be ‘finished’ it needs to be reasonably complete.

First the move. The layout was dismantled – this proved surprisingly easy and the boards were lighter than we expected which, as we are getting older, was a pleasant finding. Here it is in the original clubhouse prior to the move… …and in the new clubhouse afterwards before moving into our new room.

We (all) painted the walls and then started to clear the mess into the right rooms and then made ourselves at home. As there is now much less room we put shelves behind the layout for all the modelling tools and materials. Our pictures and plans are once again on the wall.

Everyone is lending a hand (Dave and Paul below) to work on the sidewalks and final bedding down of the buildings. Paul and Chris have also fixed the spur in front of the Hooven Mercantile building.

May 2010 – more trees!

Q1 2010 was really a continuation of the tree/woodland making that started in the last quarter of 2009. Here are more photos of the woodland – now pretty much complete. A separate page shows the techniques used which, although not radically different from most, have a bit of a hairy twist! The trees do transform the appearance of the layout.

Chris is working on the Hotel Switzerland to go next to Paul’s Central Hotel. We are seeing this hotel from the back so it shouldn’t be too complicated. Even time for a cuppa tea.

Most of our attention then (and now) has been on moving clubhouse – which finally happened at the end of April – more in the next instalment. However, we are committed to taking Mauch Chunk to our October 2010 exhibition so we will have to speed up and get all the basics finished.