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

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Thanks for taking the time to visit Philden. I hope you'll book a return ticket soon. Cheers, Phil