Sunday 21 May 2017

I'm a convert....

They say that you have to try something to know whether you like it or not, this is the only way you will find out. I tried mushrooms once and now like them. With regards to scenery I had always used the plaster method. I had read about this soft rock method, but the old South Coast Rail layout had utilised the plaster method. I was quite happy using it and over time, the end results were okay.
In the previous blog I had mentioned reading about the soft rock method. So I experimented with my old office cushion and was pleased with results.
The electric carving knife was duly located buried at the back of the cupboard. (It only usually came out at Christmas time to assist carving the ham and then retired inside till the next one) Thanks for the tip Jim, the electric knife works a treat.
The first use of the knife worked well until the switch fell off. All I could see were two contacts inside which equalled 240 volts. The only way I could use the knife was to put an elastic band around the switch. This had a down side which means that I had no way of switching it on or off. Once plugged in then away it went. Plugging in a plug usually required two hands, one on each plug to push them together, but what I really needed was another hand to hold the writhering knife blade once it made contact. So far I haven't managed to cut anything including me.
Another issue was that the valley walls were slightly larger than an office cushion. So the search was on for more material. The shed yielded no extra, nor did a quick search of the house. I was very close when the wife offered up a foam mattress that has been standing idle in the linen cupboard waiting for a visitor to try it out. I resisted hacking up the mattress but thought if I hacked off one end then it could be then relegated to a visiting child's mattress. But then I remembered if I couldn't cut a bit of timber straight what chance did I have of doing a good job on the mattress?
The prize x 2
So then I hit the stores and hardware stores. I even went to Bunnings thinking they are supposed to have everything invented but come up a blank there as well. In desperation and still sans foam, I remembered why pay for foam when someone is probably chucking it out on a council cleanup? Our local cleanup is not on for another few weeks but I just wanted to get this valley work done.
Strike me lucky, last Thursday I was driving my wife to her mums and all this junk started to appear on the kerbside. I spotted a chair on the verge and I knew that foam and chairs go together. I had to pull around a corner and walk back to the spoils. But when I got there there was no cushion or foam. So back in the car and headed back to towards her mum. Then all of a sudden we both spotted what looked to be a pile of foam on the opposite side of the road. I even pulled the car up in a non stopping zone (but left the engine running) and raced across the road to see what was there. Talk about winning the lottery, there was a big pile of at least four foam mattresses just sitting there. Bingo, I grabbed two from the bottom of the pile, raced them across the road and into the back seat of the car.
The foamous left hand side of the valley
I wasted no time once the foam was home in getting the electric knife into action. As it was very thick I cut each section into three slices. All that need to be done was to attach it to the chicken wire and fire up the soldering iron. I was lucky this section of board was near the roller door as the soldering iron produces a large amount of probably toxic smoke when it burns. I set up the summer fan behind me an blew the smoke outside.
Rock strata getting etched in
Most form of scenery work always comes together progressively, a few stages and its there. So looking at the above photo this is the first step and then paint is applied.
Paint now applied
I still have a bit of 'Harold' (the paint colour) left and this forms the base coat. You can see in the above photo where I have dumped a pile of black oxide which I paint over the brown to provide shadow and variation.
The left hand corner is getting greener
The left hand side will be finished off at a later date as it will be accessible in front when the trestle is in position. Doing scenery work is not a quick exercise. I have spent quite a few hours over the last week on this area.
More foam is added higher up the valley wall

Looking at the above photo it looks on the rough side, don't panic as it will all come together. The next step here is to get the soldering iron into action carving in the rock texture.
This bit caps it all off
If you don't have one large section of foam to do the whole section it is okay to use smaller sections as I have done. The sections can be glued together or wired together. Any gaps that show up usually get filled in with scenery.
The capping has now been painted and blended in
The above photo shows how the top bit has been coloured and some of the gaps have been filled with foam and other bits of greenery. You can see how close the trestle will be to the wall of the valley. What a co-incidence the curved trestle matches the natural curve of the rock wall!
Greenery is slowly added to take away the solid rock wall look
Rock wall now stretches over to the road area
The above photo shows that the rock wall is now right across the valley and ends over near where the road will go under the trestle ala Monbulk trestle on Puffing Billy. I have also added a few other colours to the rocks for variation. These are drybrushed on and give it a 3D effect. Compare this photo with photo number six to see how well the foam has been blended in with the existing foam. Hard to pick where the joins are.
Having tried the soft rock and compared it with the plaster method I am now favouring this method. It is certainly a lot cleaner method and lighter especially when doing mountains. This section of scenery (like most) is viewed from a distance and it all blends in to the eye. You can get in close and be critical but when the trains are up and running the eye generally follows the train through the scene, the background becomes secondary.
Getting there slowly
In the above photo can be seen the road scene on the right of the baseboard. Once I am happy with the scenery/greenery on the rock wall, then I will get the trestle ready for positioning.
Till the next update, happy modelling.

Saturday 13 May 2017

A little bit to the right....

The last couple of days has seen me stuck down the gully working my way towards the road on the right hand side of the module.
As stated on the previous blog entry I have to finish off all the scenery work that will be behind the trestle. The roadbed has been roughly cut out of ply so I can gauge where it will stand across the gully.
During the week I have ordered some timber from the Railcar for the trestle. Once I have completed the scenery at the back of trestle then I will complete the trestle it and secure into place. Then after this I can move onto Broadwater station.
Unfortunately scenery is always a slow process and I am getting frustrated at its slow progress.
The bed for the creek has been roughed in using plaster as shown above. It would not be possible to use the foam for this purpose. At this stage it only needs to be roughed in as it will be filled in with rocks and then other vegetation laid over the side of the creek. Somehow it all comes together slowly but surely.
The above photo shows that 'Harold' the muddy coloured paint has been at work. All the plaster has been painted and the rock surfaces dry brushed to hopefully accentuate the water when it is poured over the top. Also can be seen more progress to the right hand side.
This shot shows the trackbed of the trestle where it will fit into place. You can see that the trestle bents will straddle the creek below. The right hand rock face will be close to the trestle which should make for a few interesting placements. The track on the trestle as shown is Micro Engineering but I will probably just end up using the standard Peco track as used elsewhere. The ME track looks a bit anorexic with its narrow sleepers. Besides I only purchased one length and would need more to complete. A road will go under the trestle where the can is shown.
 A few closeup shots of the waterfall. I need to add the resin to this section when the creek rocks have dried off. There is a lot of fine detail work to be done around the rocks. Just study photos off the internet and go look at waterfalls in real life.
The final photo of where the gully is now up to. It is hard to believe that my posterior was once sitting on the right hand side scenery. I think it has been put to better use. Only trouble now is that I have run out the foam and have to go and search for more.

Tuesday 9 May 2017

Going soft in my old age

Well what a turn around. I mentioned in the last blog that when I was to build the gully that I would be using plaster for the walls. This has turned out only partly true as I decided to try out some soft rock modelling.
There is a guy, Mark Fry who wrote an article sometime ago in the Australian Model Railroader Magazine on making soft rocks. Alas I had given away the particular issue with the article in it. No worries, I'll have a go my way. So I reached for the soldering iron, cranked it up and then tried a few swipes across the foam to see how it would go. Plenty of smoke issued and after it had cleared I could see that the end result would be promising.
By nature the foam has a lot of holes in it, so I tried some aerosol putty over the foam. The improvement was only marginal and not used again. I also tied a weak plaster mix over the foam and this was also okay but the thicker it was applied I started wondering why I was using the foam underneath.
So the end result was a mixture of three scenery methods. I had the chicken wire, foam soft rocks and some plaster.
Being my first time doing the soft rock method I was pondering how to hold the foam against the chicken wire in the upper reach of the gully. I thought of using some glue but then settled for some wire bent into a hairpin shape, poked through the foam and then twisted over when it went through the chicken wire. This worked well.
I had tried some test section of the foam and used some Tamiya Khaki drab paint over the foam to darken it up. Using up a jar quickly was going to prove expensive to do the whole module. At at recent visit to Bunnings I remembered that you can get sample pots. The beauty of this is you don't have to tell the guy mixing the paint what the product will be used for. He probably though that I didn't have a very good choice of colours when I asked for a sample pot of a paint called 'Harold'. While the name tells you nothing regarding its colour, it was probably named after the guy who came up with the colour. It was the closest colour that I could get to the khaki drab.
On the creek floor I put some rocks that I had gathered at some time and glued them into place like I normally do for track ballast. After a day of drying this worked well. While at Bunnings I looked for a thick liquid sealer that I previously used in the original gully. So stupid me had thrown away the empty tin and I couldn't find a similar product. I had to settle for a resin that it used for fiberglassing, the one that needs a hardener added. I mixed a small amount, this being the first time I had used this product. It seemed to settle down amongst the rocks okay and was hard on the second day. I also put some white fibre into the resin but it still needs a second lot over it. Viewed from a few feet away it doesn't look too bad.
The left hand side of the gully wall won't be visible from the front of the layout when it gets into its final position so it will be only a cosmetic makeover.
In the photo on the right I have also started to apply some greenery to the walls, It then starts coming to life. The results of the foam soft rock can also be seen. I am happy with the end results and are now on the lookout for more foam. Damm I remember going past a council cleanup pile once and saw a complete mattress chucked out, didn't want it then but do now. It seems a waste to buy the foam new and then convert it into soft rocks. I'm still not sure if the gully looks O scale or not, once I get a few O scale objects into the scene then I'll know.
Some progress has been made with the foam soft rocks now wrapping around both sides of the gully walls. The left photo clearly shows the foam wired into the chicken wire awaiting the soldering iron to rough it up a little.
In isolsation when you get up close to some foam it doesn't look all that good but when the greenery, weathering and all other things you do to it, then it comes into its own. Compared with plaster modelling the soft rock system is a lot cleaner and less messy and less clean up afterwards.
You can see on the gully walls where the paint 'Harold' has done his stuff. It is a good basecoat colour and can then be highlighted with other lighter colours.
I also had a large amount of white foam on hand and broke up several large chunks, then glued them into the corner with an acrylic glue. Don't use the normal liquid nails glue as it will melt the foam. 
The original test piece of foam is in the front of the picture at the left.
For the first falls I reverted to using plaster as I found it would mould into shapes that I couldn't do with the foam. Sometimes when you get part way through doing some scenery you get disheartened with the results. When you look at the above photo it certainly doesn't look anything great. But bit by bit it all comes together in the end. The white plaster soon gets a dose of 'Harold' and straight away looks like rock. I am also feeling my way with this one. When putting it all together there are gaps that will appear between different scenery material, just stick some greenery there and the gaps will go away.
 I have put some more rocks into the waterfall scene, the above photo shows some ballast glue dribbling down the waterfall fixing the rocks into place. Also at the front can be seen some plaster rocks that I made by breaking up some foam rocks then dipping them into a watery plaster mixture. These rocks have bulk without weight. Harold has also got to these rocks as a base colour, they will be speckled later with other colours for variation.
As I said in the previous post I need to complete all this scene before I get the bridge into place. I am frustrated by the slowness of this work, it has many layers of work before the final result.

I'll finish off this blog with the progress to date, much more work will need to be done before I am satisfied. Remember everytime you do any scenery work it is all part of a learning curve, each time you do something it should get better than the last.