In response to fellow RMweb members who were interested in how I made the overall wire roof the following is an article that was scheduled to appear in a future edition of FRMR. The baseboard for the model had been completed by the end of December and the roof structure by the end of January. It was around this time I emailed some pictures to the late Bob Barlow, who in response asked me to write a short article about its construction. By the time this was sent the poor man was probably starting to become very ill. It would be in bad taste, as much as a lack of respect, to send it on to another magazine but it’d also be a great shame to just bin it. So here it is. I’m sure Bob would have put his experienced editorial eye over it before it made it to print so this is it how it was submitted without any adjustments.
An Overall Station Roof from Galvanised Wire
By Mike Lynch
After the success of my ‘House of Shadows’ layout I decided to push the concept further and use the same internal lighting technique for a small station scene. The general idea was to construct an overall arched roof on a 6 foot long curved layout and enclose it in a custom made lighting box. Most of my previous roofed dioramas have been made from 1mm diameter galvanised wire and I could see no reason why this roof couldn’t be made the same way. Being from the ‘make do and mend’ generation, I’m always looking out for ways to model on the cheap. This can be an expensive hobby and the amount of brass material required would cost way too much for what will only really be a photographic display. Bundles of galvanised wire were found at a tip some years ago so all my roof schemes have only ever cost the price of the solder and flux! Many modellers would recoil at the thought of using material like this because it is not an accurate representation of that used on the prototype. But I’m more of a ‘fine art’ rather than ‘fine scale’ modeller (if there can be any such thing) so it’s only the overall impression I’m interested in. To me, the background is incidental to the stock so as long as it looks fairly realistic that does for me.
The first thing to do before undertaking any such scheme was to trawl my collection of prototype books for pictures of Victorian Overall roofs. The thing I noticed most was how the curving steel stanchions seem to disappear into the sides of the support walls instead of sitting squarely on top of their masonry columns. This means that the feet of these half circle stanchions rest much further down toward platform level. In order to create the same effect small curving flutes were made from cardboard, painted and then mounted onto the wall. This arrangement dictated the circumference of the wire arches; they would now need to be about a third of a circle in diameter instead of a half. The photorealistic wall texture, Carlisle Station Wall, is from the Smart Models range and very much lends an authentic look; the three arch bays also neatly predetermined the stanchion spacing.
Station roofs, like all roofs, are made from a collection of standardised components that have been pre-made in a factory, delivered to site and erected. The same process needed to be mimicked in model form. Therefore, each of the arches had to be made exactly the same in order to achieve the duplication found in roof structures of this type. The layout needed 13 spans; 11 of these were going to be double sided with two single arch spans at the entrance and at the rear. The entrance span was going to be glass fronted so it required window bars to match the acetate texture that was going to be used. A mirror was going to be employed to double the length of the scene at the rear of the layout so the other span would need to be single in order to create the correct reflection and neatly reinforce the illusion. In total then, I’d need to make 24 single sided arches in some sort of a jig.
A side elevation plan of the layout was drawn up for reference beforehand and then transferred to an old off cut of plasterboard which would be used as the master jig. The wires would need to be held in place by small grooves during soldering so these were simply scored out with the tip of a small screwdriver once the paper covering had been cut away to reveal the Gypsum underneath. Plaster board is excellent for this type of work as it’s easy to score out (try scoring curved lines in wood!), it also doesn’t absorb much heat from the soldering iron and subject metal.
Once satisfied that all the measurements and lines were correct the wire was prepared. This had to be stretched by use of a vice and pair of pliers in order to straighten it out; the wire is quite soft so this also introduces a little tension and ensures that it doesn’t bend as easily when working with. It was then cleaned with some Emery paper and cut into the predetermined lengths required.
During the making up process I found it best to quickly drop a little blob of solder on each of the joints first, let it cool and then go back and work it around properly. I also like to be liberal with the flux; it’s messy but it makes for a solid joint and there’s also nothing quite so satisfying than watching solder flow easily over metal. In the first test arch only the uprights between the outer and inner curving wires were soldered. This was then taken up and offered to the master plan for checking. However, the outer wires started to bend up out of shape after a few minutes and I thought that at this point the scheme would come to nothing. Going back to the prototype pictures I soon began to realise why the engineers had introduced angled locking bars between their uprights. These were introduced into the master jig and another arch was quickly soldered up; it worked and provided a powerful insight into the design of these types of structures. In fact, just to ensure against any further springing a longitudinal locking bar between the arch feet was also incorporated; these can be found in a lot of roof structures and are commonly referred to as Collars.
Once these arches were complete 22 were joined together at 10mm apart with temporary wire spacers to make the 11 double arch spans required. These wires would be removed later when the spans were finally linked up with each other. The entrance and mirror arches were modified accordingly. Once washed down the spans were transferred to a master plan that had been carefully drawn out on a separate board. This plan mimicked the curving wall and its column locations exactly. At this stage another template was scored out on the plasterboard in order to make the triangular glazing sections that sit atop the arches. These were relatively quick to run off and were soldered on in situ without too much fuss.
Joining all of the spans to form a cohesive whole was very straightforward. Using cardboard spacers as guides, simple lengths of wire were soldered along the outside length of the span run. It was crucial to ensure these joiners were spaced correctly in order to accommodate the acetate glazing panels that were going to be used. Where these joining bars needed to be thicker, individual lengths of wire were soldered together before being fitted. In order to ensure the curve remained true, so that the structure exactly fitted the sweep of the wall, 5mm square metal bars were soldered on the feet bottoms at both sides. These were picked up quite cheaply from a local DIY store and were easily bent to shape. Once the structure was complete it was thoroughly washed down with hot water and detergent. I did this in the bath and won’t be doing anything like that again simply for the sake of domestic harmony!
On a final note, this has been a very cheap project to date; even the baseboard came off a disused hoarding found at the road side. The roof took about 30 hours to complete and, as described, was very simply and quickly put together. Researching the prototype was also very enjoyable and gave plenty of insight into the design and assembly of this type of roof construction. Some of these Victorian super structures are now over 150 years old and despite the weather, Hitler’s bombs in some cases and the appalling lack of maintenance during the BR era they remain solid and true. They are testament to the abilities of the original designers, engineers and erectors. This has made me wonder just how long my simple model will last; that’s in scale years of course!
The Master Jig - an old off cut of plasterboard.
The jig took a bit of a bashing but is still servicable should an extension be made at a later date.
Once joined together the arch spans were transferred to an accurate plan of the layout drawn out on a 'making up' board.
There was a fair bit of fiddling about during the making up process and the entire structure was regularly test fitted against the layout.
Once the structure was complete it was offered up to the mirror. The purpose of the single arch span at the rear of the layout is now obvious. Its reflection reinforces the illusion of an unbroken series of double arch spans.
An initial test shot during the covering stage and before the Light Box section was made.
A shot of the completed structure under natural lighting conditions.