Thursday, 7 June 2018

Exhibition #5 Toowoomba 2018

What a weekend, what a week! Fresh back from a weekend away for the Toowoomba Model Trains & Hobby Expo, my layout is back from its 430 km round trip from Caloundra and awaiting its next trip in the back of our car. This time, to a new address as I am moving house in a week. Considering that this will be the third time in five weeks I will have to lug the layout down five flights of stairs, you can forgive me for not having made any progress on the new extension since the Brisbane Model Train Show in May.

A behind the scenes view before the crowds arrive. From here it almost looks as big as Southern Highlands!

While I've visited Toowoomba in the past, I'd never actually driven up the range to see the Toowoomba Model Train Show before now. So packing a suitcase along with the layout in the back of the Mondeo, Denise and I made a weekend of it and stayed two nights at a motel in the heart of town. Once again I set the layout up so that the incomplete extension acted as hidden staging for the weekend. And although I was disappointed that the new scene still wasn't ready to be shown off, this time I paid a little more attention to what worked on my layout over the weekend. And what didn't. But first, here's a few snaps of some of my favourite layouts that were on display over the weekend. As you can see, the quality of layouts on display at the Toowoomba Model Trains & Hobby Expo was exceptionally high.

I spent all weekend looking across at the Southern Highlands, and this photo shows just 1/3 of the layout!

Victoria Creek was a small Queensland sugar milling layout I was glad to see again as I hadn't seen it for years.

One of my all-time favourite layouts Splitters Swamp Creek was there at Toowoomba. Just look at that backdrop!

The HOn31/2 scale Stannumvale is perhaps the nicest-looking Queensland layout I've ever seen. What an amazing station!

The Moreton N Scale group were also at Toowoomba with their gem of a layout.

And finally Philden, my little layout as viewed from the road side of the railway station.

A lot of regular South East Queensland attendees all made a very similar comment over the course of the weekend. They all liked looking at the layout from the street side of the railway station. I was told how watching the 2 car Xplorer train glide to a stop at the platform was a bit like train watching in real life. And I also heard how having the trains disappear completely from view behind the scene, (as opposed to last year when I operated from the front and the trains just stopped on a visible shelf) made the layout appear bigger. Funny that, I would have thought it would have been the complete opposite. Also, behind the scenes I found my 3 track extension a little clumsy to operate over the course of the weekend. When you're trying to change locos and wagons at various points of the day to keep what's running looking fresh, there wasn't really the room to do so. It has got me thinking about the basic design of the extension, particularly given that there is going to be some platform edging to come alongside the mainline. So stay tuned, there may be another twist in how this gets completed.

The weekend as a whole was an awesome experience. From our three-and-a-half hour drive there from the Sunshine Coast to Toowoomba via Kilcoy with our country mix tape blaring, Pepsi-Max cans in hand and Caramello Koalas at the ready, to our 2 night stay at Potter's Boutique Hotel in Margaret Street where Denise and I enjoyed a romantic dinner on the Friday night. Being positioned beside our friends Stuart and Mardi's store and layout for the weekend also made it easier for us to plan our Saturday night dinner out. For something different we all dined in town at Al Attar Middle Eastern Grill. So what is an event like the Toowoomba Model Trains & Hobby Expo worth to a city like Toowoomba? All up, taking Philden to Toowoomba pumped over $500 into the local economy, and that's all money spent outside of the actual venue.

By Sunday, Denise had discovered that the Toowoomba Wine Show was being held next door in the Glenvale Room, so I lost her from about 11.30 am to close to 3 pm. When she returned, she duly declared this the best train show we have ever been to, and asked if we are coming back next year. I had plans to take Philden to an interstate show in Sydney in 2019, but as I write this, our friends Stuart and Mardi are on their way south to the Epping Model Railway Club Show at Rosehill for back-to-back exhibition weekends. Which gets me thinking... if we were to take a week off work, we could do Toowoomba again next year before heading south for a few nights holiday and finish the week at Rosehill in Sydney. I'm sure she wouldn't mind if the Wine Show was on again at the same time.

So anyway, you'll have to excuse the lack of posts in the coming months, I have an apartment to pack and a number of small projects to complete on the layout in time for my next two model train shows in August. Till next time, take care!

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