Monday, 14 May 2018

Exhibition #4 Brisbane 2018

In the blink of an eye, it seems a whole year has passed by since I debuted my layout at last year's Brisbane Model Train Show. Returning to the RNA Showgrounds in the inner Brisbane suburb of Herston for the 2018 edition, seemed like a case of deva ju. The only difference to the drive down from the Sunshine Coast each day coming courtesy of the weekend coinciding with Eurovision and the playlist that Denise and I had compiled of our favourite Eurovision songs from the past few years blaring in our car.

That's me behind the layout trying to copy the pose of Philden's mascot, while Craig demonstrates some scratch-building techniques at the table next to me.

Once more the Brisbane Model Train Show was held in The Marquee, which as Brisbane show-goers will testify translates to a big tent with semi-permanent roof. With the asphalt floor also doubling as Sideshow Alley for the 2 weeks that the Brisbane Ekka is held each year, setting up in this venue is always tricky on account of the sloping floor, and clubs and individuals such as myself are always scrambling for blocks of wood to level up our layouts during the Friday afternoon set-up.

What 2018 did bring however, was a bumper crowd for the opening day on Saturday. At one point there were no less than 20 people crowded around my small layout vying for a view. Or they might have been trying to catch a glimpse of what was going on next to me, as fellow blogger, champion and all-round good bloke Craig Mackie manned the AMRA scratch-building demonstration table. You couldn't ask to be set-up beside a nicer person for the weekend, and I'm not just saying that because Craig scratch-built one of his famous Hills-Hoist clotheslines for me to add to Philden at some point in the near future. Read his blog post and you'll see he fulfilled requests for no less than 11 clotheslines that day!

Looking over the Model Train Buildings trade stand at the full length of the venue.

Sunday afternoon quietened down noticeably after the lunch time rush, and though it was a quieter day on account of it being Mothers Day, everybody agreed the numbers were up compared to the 2 days last year. Everyone who mentioned that they were readers of my blog were given a sneak peak behind the scenes at the new scene that is being constructed. While a special shout-out goes to regular reader Mike, who flew all the way from Dunedin, New Zealand, to spend the weekend visiting family, and come check-out the Brisbane Show!

Despite there only being a handful of Australian model manufactures at this years show, (I noticed only Southern Rail Models, Wuiske Models, SDS and Eureka), there were a number of new cottage craft suppliers to break up the usual retailers, and a number of new layouts to be seen. Amongst my favourites were Stuart & Mardi Walker's Olde Town, and the OO scale replica of Urangan Pier.

I'm keen on trying to include the Wool Shed building flat from Walker Models on my own layout!

Having just started a new waterfront scene myself, I loved the model of the Urangan Pier from Hervey Bay.

I now have a second Brisbane Model Train Show plaque to go on my end layout panel.

Packing up on Sunday was a rush to make it home in time for the Eurovision Final on TV, and a get-together with my kids to celebrate my 46th Birthday. The show ended at 4 pm and by 4.15 we were driving out of the venue for the trip back up to the Sunshine Coast. The changes I've made to the new extension on my layout have made it easier to set-up and pack-down. So with the knowledge that we are going to do all this again in just 3 weeks time for the Toowoomba Model Train and Hobby Expo, we headed back up the Bruce Highway with Eurovision songs blaring in the Mondeo, and a fourth exhibition for Philden in the rear view mirror.

My birthday present from my son Brandon and his girlfriend Lisa was this cool steam train wine bottle holder!

Although we cheered Jessica Mauboy on in the Eurovision Final on Sunday night, unfortunately Australia received the least votes from the TV audience. I personally loved her song, but I also loved the gifts my kids gave me, including the metal steam train wine bottle holder you can see above. Not only that, but my daughter ensured I'll have some new shirts to pack for when Denise and I head on our road trip for the Toowoomba Show in 3 weeks time. The layout stayed in the car for Sunday night, before Monday morning it was once more trudged up five flights of stairs and reassembled in place over my desk.

With another three shows to take Philden to in 2018, I've promised Denise that there will just be one that we'll take my layout to in 2019. So for now, 2018 might well be the last appearance Philden makes at the Brisbane Model Train Show for quite some time. Now, to get some small tweaks done in time for Philden's next outing. But as usual, I'll let them be stories for another day.

See also; Exhibition #1 Brisbane Beginnings

Monday, 7 May 2018

The sea was angry

To quote the character George Costanza off one of my all-time favourite TV shows, Seinfeld; "the sea was angry that day my friend!" Or at least I was. After my last post Rocks and rolling waves, had been posted, and another project had been ticked off my list of things to do, I'd accidentally bumped the clear silicone caulk I had used for the water scene, and discovered it had failed to set properly beneath the surface.

The reason it looked so wet after a week of my finishing it, was because it was still wet beneath the spongy skin of the surface. Not only that, the rolling heavy sets of waves approaching the shoreline had sagged-out, and my interesting school of jellyfish (the air bubbles that for once I was prepared to say were not worth worrying about), had noticeably grown in size to the proportion of giant squid! To once-more quote a line from that famous episode of Seinfeld, someone shouted out from the shoreline; "quick, does anyone know a marine-biologist?" And with that, out came the scalpel and on went the rubber gloves. This was going to get messy.

The scene with the non-hardened clear silicone caulk removed, after being careful not to damage the painted base.

I soon worked out where the problem area began, and used a new sharp tipped hobby knife to cut through the surface of the silicone skin from the 3rd wave back from the shoreline to about 5 mm in from the rock edges and concrete harbour wall. Fortunately I didn't have to disturb any other scenery, and I made a clean slice along the front perspex channel. Then using a narrow flat tipped screwdriver, I began working in opposite lines to the direction of the waves to remove the non-hardened caulk using a method of long, shallow scoops so as not to disturb the painted base. It came away in big, goopy blobs, leaving only the clear silicone that you can see in the above photo that had already bonded to the painted timber base.

Second time around, and this time I applied single beads for each wave before shaping them individually.

For the second time around, I once more consulted my copy of the July 1996 Model Railroader Magazine to see where I'd gone wrong. Ken Patterson's method for modelling surf and sand showed him applying long beads of clear silicone that he then smeared back to represent the trailing wake of broken waves, and you guessed it, he'd applied it nowhere-near as thick as I had.

With the tacky residue of non-hardened clear silicone still damp on my painted surface, I brushed a smear of mineral turpentine over the surface to be re-worked, before applying thin beads of the Selleys all-clear in the shape of the wave lines I wanted to create, working on one wave at a time. Being sure to feather the waves out at varying points, I dipped a flat brush into some mineral turpentine, and just as I did last time, brushed the waves up into crests at the front and down into trailing wakes of whitewater at the back. This time I made sure there were no areas where the silicone was sitting up any higher than a bead of sealant you would find around any shower screen.

The Selleys all-clear joined invisibly with the cut lines I had made to remove the original section.

Fixing the scene from this point on was a breeze, and if anything, the gouge-marks from removing the non-hardened silicone with the screwdriver only enhanced the scene greatly. It gave each wave a distinctive series of ripples running in the opposite direction to the wave, much like a strong rip or undertow forming behind it. Best of all, applying a much thinner coat of the Selleys all-clear meant that the product dried quicker, and each wave set and stayed in its upright position.

Late afternoon light makes the re-surfaced water area appear softer and more realistic.

By afternoon, the product had skinned and I was able to paint the crests of the waves in the exact same manner as my last post. And as the sun set, I opened the blinds to let the last rays of sunlight hit the water for the photo above. Just like real water, the sunlight effects the surface colour. At night under artificial lighting, the water appears dark and cold. With natural afternoon light coming through the window, the water looks softer and more inviting.

Before: The original water surface showing the blobbed-out, saggy effect that developed over 7 days.

After: the less-thicker approach yielded waves that actually sat up higher and didn't sag or bubble.

Finally by midday Sunday, the above scene was dry to touch and looking a lot more angry than my first attempt. While it only takes up a small corner of the new extension, it was important to get this right as it will be the most dominant feature on this end of my layout. I'm happy with it, real happy with it, as the rough sea also appears to have swept all the jellyfish out to sea. As Kramer said after hearing George's story in that episode of Seinfeld; "well how about that? A hole in one!"

Well, less than a week out from the 2018 Brisbane Model Train Show, its hard to stop work and prepare to pack the layout for an exhibition weekend. Starting out with one idea in mind and seeing the project steer itself in a new direction at each turn can be one of the more rewarding points of building a freelanced layout, but also the reason why I don't model prototype settings. Thoughts now turn to the 3D backdrop that will be necessary on account of the narrow space between the rear line and the blue sky. How otherwise do you fit a station scene into a space that tapers down to just 6 mm wide? I have a great photo that I've taken that is sized just right, angled correctly and well lit, but there is an element within it that is going to send this extension in yet another new direction.

With two full weekends between the Brisbane and Toowoomba model train shows, if I can get the backdrop scene finished and the overpass completed, the beach extension may even be ready to reveal at Toowoomba on June 2nd & 3rd. But as usual, I'll let that be a story for another day.

See also; Rocks and rolling waves

Saturday, 28 April 2018

Rocks and rolling waves

Work continues to progress on the beach extension, despite it only being two weeks out from my layout's next public appearance at the Brisbane Model Train Show. Though the layout will be exhibited from the other side with the incomplete extension hidden from view of the public, its nice to know that the hardest part of building the scenery for my beach-side extension is now behind me. Phills Harbour now has rocks and rolling waves.

After adding the harbour walls in my last update, I next shaped the rocky cliffs.

Starting with the rocks that fall down to the shoreline, I followed the same process I did when using polystyrene foam to model the rocks around the mouse-hole exit from the main layout, and finished the rock surface with the same goop recipe I concocted when detailing the highway overpass. After wrestling with the idea of surfers crossing the railway tracks to get to the beach down by the harbour, and realising I didn't have room to include stairs for an overhead walkway, I came up with the solution of adding a pedestrian subway that leads beneath the railway line. In reality, its only about 5 cm deep and leads to a painted black dead-end, but it seems to do the job.

The subway was my solution to provide beach access, while the sand came locally from Caloundra.

I then filled the channel that will eventually hold the perspex panel with paper towel wadding, and completed the beach scene by painting the rocks with a paint mixture of burnt sienna and white acrylics. I added darker shades to the cracks and crevices, before dry brushing lighter shades and highlights on the raised tips. The white rocks at the base of the cliff are tallus rock, and for scenery detail I used Woodlands Scenics clump foliage that I had left over from their TR1113 pine tree pack. Finally, I completed the shoreline using a handful of sand sourced locally from Happy Valley, one of the places I most enjoyed surfing here in Caloundra before my shoulder dictated that I could no longer paddle out on my board. I saturated the beach area in a 50/50 mixture of water and PVA, and waited for it to dry.

I used tea leaves to simulate seaweed and barnacles along the waterline.

A fellow modeller here in Caloundra by the name of Michael Parker, shared a tip with me on how he adds seaweed and barnacles to the side of his water scenes by using tea leaves. While he never specified which variety, I used Twinings Irish Breakfast, painted a strip of PVA glue along the edge of the rocks and harbour walls at water level, and after cutting open the tea bag, gently blew a teaspoon full of dry leaves directly onto the wet glue. It does make a mess, so have a vacuum cleaner close by to clean up once the glue has set. I then glued in the painted concrete spans for the short Port Authority rail bridge. I will come back to that later to add more details.

The water base is a 50/50 mix of blue and black.

After the seaweed and barnacles had dried, I next painted the base of the harbour using a 50/50 mix of black and pthalo blue artists acrylic. I applied 4 coats to ensure that no timber grain would be visible, and took extra time to ensure that the blue worked its way into any gaps at the base of the glued tea-leaves.

Lighter blues and whites were brushed into the darker blue base while still wet.

While the paint was still wet, I added a large blob of white to my artists palette, and worked it into different areas of black/blue paint to get an array of different shades of lighter, foamy blue colours. I used this only along the shoreline, working away from the edge of the sand in strokes that feathered out to nothing. While the end result above looks effective, I would only recommend the next step to those who are either; a/. confident, b/. prepared to risk stuffing up a scene totally or c/.both, as there is no-way you can remove this stuff once you put it down.

The water is actually clear silicone caulk, applied very carefully to the modelled area.

I first got this idea from Model Railroader magazine, in an article on modelling surf and sand by Ken Patterson in the July 1996 issue. Ken used a single thick bead of clear silicone caulk for each wave, and then teased it backwards with his finger creating a thin smear of silicone over the painted water surface. It looked effective and would have proven far more simple than what I did.

For my scene, I used half of a 260 gram tube of Selleys All Clear waterproof silicone to fill my 130 mm x 500 mm area to a depth of 6 mm, and teased the surface using a flat tipped brush dipped in mineral turpentine until it resembled rolling waves. The instructions on the tube mentioned the mineral turpentine idea, and it worked a treat, as at first it looked as though the silicone was going to dry into a series of long, lumpy lines. A no. 12 flat brush dipped in turps however, allows you to work the beads together and simultaneously tease random areas into peaks if you work a small 100 mm x 100 mm (4 inch square) area at a time. I started with the edges first, being careful not to spread the silicone higher than the PVA glued tea leaf line I had already added. I don't know what this silicone would do to polystyrene foam, but the PVA glue worked at providing a protective barrier between the polystyrene rocks and the cardboard harbour walls. Finally, for the shoreline waves, I teased the waves into a breaking crest over the area that I had painted with lighter base colours.

Finally, I painted the crests of each approaching wave in varying shades of white and foaming bluish-white.

The silicone is able to be painted with acrylics once the surface skin has dried. I used the same colour concoction I mixed for the lighter blue base at the shoreline, and singled out the crests of each breaking wave for some foamy-white highlights. Applying it thickly to just the right areas gives the clear silicone water some real body. From my days spent surfing, I know that the waves closer to the shoreline are smaller and messier after they have broken, while further out the back they are thicker, more rolling and less likely to have any whitewater highlights. If I was still riding my surfboard, then I'd be wanting to get to my feet on the fourth wave back from the shoreline right about now. Finally, I highlighted some other random peaks around the harbour for some whitewater highlights of smaller waves lapping against the rocks or concrete harbour walls.

It may just be a small representation of a beach, but you can still imagine the harbour trailing away into the watery deep beyond the edge of the layout. Overall, I'm very pleased with how my beach scene has turned out. If there is one thing I wasn't 100% pleased with, it was the air bubbles that formed after the silicone began drying out, I'm guessing it was from me teasing the silicone too much with the brush. Rather than be disappointed, I'm happy just to leave it be as I think they look like a school of jellyfish.

The raised track sits at just about the right height above the rolling waves below.

While I have a lot more shoreline detailing to come back and add-to, at least the hardest part is now out of the way and the trains are once more running from the port area, through the mouse-hole and into Philden. And as a precursor of what's to come, new locomotive 3518 has just been photographed arriving at Phills Harbour in the summer of 1993/94.

Thanks to everyone who participated in Philden's Fantastic 442 Fundraiser, I was able to both free up some much needed storage space and raise enough funds to be able to add a candy 442 Class loco to my roster as soon as they are available. I hope everyone who bought something from me was left a happy customer. That got me thinking however, with my money already sitting aside waiting for the release of Auscision Models' long-awaited 48 Class loco thanks to my Christmas 2017 eBay clean-out, would I be better-off looking for another 1993/94 era locomotive? I had planned to add the PN-patched 48142 when it is released, but their re-released 45 Class in the form of the 35 Class rebuilds in Marlboro livery were just sitting there beckoning me. In the end I decided to add the 45 Class to my roster instead, simply because they were available right now, and I can see the little guys sitting inside the cab, whereas the 48 Class Pacific National liveries will have darkened windows on account of their air-conditioning upgrade. I guess that's the freedom that comes with my no longer choosing to pre-order a model. It leaves you free to change your mind.

The Marlboro livery should make for a striking era-match with my 2 car Xplorer and the candy 442 when it arrives, and I'll then leave my Interail 421 Class and Pacific National NR class locos to share 2004/05 duties with the Xplorer. I'll have to post a review on the 45 Class once I have my layout readied for the Brisbane Model Train Show in two weeks time. So for now, any further work on the beach extension will have to wait until after the layout returns from the Toowoomba Model Train Show in early June. But as usual, I'll let them be stories for another day.

See also; The Port becomes operational and Detailing a highway overpass