With Mostyn back from the Alexandra Palace exhibition and enhancements of the Mostyn Expressnet completed, Mauch Chunk – or at least the scenic part – was again erected in the Barrowmore clubrooms.
The focus has been on improving the appearance of the ballast, which was rather large; growing more trees for the woodland at the RH (North) end; and improving the roadways.
Gareth has done most of the work on the ballast which is now much improved. Steve has regrassed the area where the old trackside huts once stood and has been ‘growing’ the trees. These include Supertrees imported from the USA which are used at the front. To fill the bulk of the space, trees have been made from templates of sedum, astilbe and ‘dead’ heather. In all these cases the bulk is built up with theatrical hair before adding coarse woodland scenics scatter which is held on with ultra-hold hairspray – as cheap as possible.
More skilled is the production of the fencing for the pathway by the road. We etched posts to which Richard then soldered 0.5mm brass wire (four strands) and a second post is the soldered on top. The end result works very well.
Lots of scenic work is being carried out. Leading the charge is Mike who has focused most recently on extending the buildings at the town-end of Susquehanna Street back the four inches now available. He has put in all the windows on the last house and is now painting them all. He is also laying the ‘extended’ platform across the first line of track.
Steve has been adding occasional trees to the RH hill and has painted the new back scene. Gareth has been touching up the ballast and planting a fence. Dave rebuilt a plastic fence in brass.
Although not shown, Gavin has been painting fascias and buiding all additional woodwork – in particular the large LH end panel where we will display posters.
Running up to Christmas we have carried on at great pace to finish the trackwork and scenic work on Mauch Chunk.
Richard has carried on turnout building and, having finished 12 (?) turnouts – many in groups – is now relaying the track on the front to accomodate them. This has produced a pile of old turnouts which have served us well for many years but are not reliable enough for the new exhibition running. Mike is also lending a hand with tracklaying.
Mike has carried on with the smoothing of the roadways, which currently look very smooth – a bit of weathering will make them more realistic.
Gavin has built the new backscene boards using 3mm ply and braced them with 1inch x 1inch timber (not shown). He has also varnished and primed them for Steve to paint.
Steve has carried on with weathering the walls and rockface and then moved on to ballasting the RH end of the layout and adding the rocks on the river edge. Ground cover has also been added to the hillsides with Woodland Scenics coarse and fine scatter in several colours and blends, prior to re-adding the trees.
The late Chris Bennet’s bridge (the earlier girder bridge) has been extended using the same techniques and and pieces to extend over the extra tracks.
Since my last post, we’ve been storming ahead with getting Mauch Chunk ready for the CMRA show in Stevenage on January 13/14th.
Mike has been getting stuck in with improving the scenery and has done some work on the statue of the unknown soldier, as well as starting to relay all the roadways and extend them onto the new boards.
Steve has been continuing to work on the walls – painting them – and is modifying the ‘river’ bridge extending it to cross the new, increased track witdth.
Richard has been measuring up and re-templotting much of the pointwork and is now building a full replacement set to ensure flawless running. Some or all of this will be relaid before CMRA depending on time available.
Gavin has started to build new backscenes to fit the new, extended scenic section, ready for Steve to paint in the early new year.
Peter, of Big Bear fame, has reworked the software for us to allow operation on 1024×768 screens which will allow us to use ex-‘Point of Sale’ touchscreens if time allows.
Having returned from taking Mostyn to the Great Electric Train Show at Gaydon at the start of October and stacking all the boards away, we have now re-erected (most of) Mauch Chunk.
Gavin has completed the curved fascia and mounted the light sockets and connected the mains supply using Wago 3-way connectors. A single ‘Bennet’ upright is enough to support it with one end braced by the adjacent fascia.
The ‘dry riverside’ on the bend has been filled and Steve has also been applying plaster and clay (DAS modelling) to the wall supports at both ends of the layout. The clay was rolled out using a mini-rolling pin. On the RH curve, the rockface was carved using photos of the prototype taken as stills from YouTube videos.
In the past month I have plodded on with the two hilsides: Photos show initially Flagstaff mountain which has been made considerably higher and four inches has also been added to the back to make full use of the boards – this widening has been done all along the layout.
After building with the polystyrene and carving, the polystyrene was covered with a plaster/PVA/paint mix. This was then further painted a brown earthy color. Finally PVA was again painted on and old-fashioned carpet underlay was glued down – and pulled off once the glue was dry to give a layer of undergrowth to go under the floc that will fall from the trees! This will be trimmed with my beard trimmer.
The roadways were edged with 3mm ply or a similar thickness of MDF. Both were cut with a jig saw and attached with grip adhesive and a nail gun. Note that at the RH end (Packer Hill), various indentiations were included to allow for the prototype detail. We have managed to get this detail from a couple of YouTube films taken from train trips. Wall stones and rocks will be carved out of PVA-strengthened plaster. Some rock faces have already been carved above the road and look pretty reasonable.
Gavin has started to cut the baseboard away to build the riverside on the curve – there will be no water as this is on the inside of a river curve – just deposited river stones.
Finally Gavin’s curved fascias can be seen under construction made up from laminations of 3mm plywood. Astonishing!
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 laid back 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.
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!
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.
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.