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After various delays and setbacks, nothing to do with model railways, I have finally started my contribution to the Cameo Challenge. From the outset I wanted to do something I hadn't attempted before which was to create a scene which deliberately deviated from the accepted cameo 'norm' of viewing a model as a set piece as though in a theatre. I have built several layouts in the past based on this concept and they have all been satisfying both to build, operate and view, but I felt the time was right to break out of the prescribed mould and try a bit of thinking 'outside the box' as it were.

 

There's not a great deal of physical evidence to see at the moment as baseboard construction is at an early stage, and the philosophy for the layout's design will become clear in due course. So, to be going on with, and show that I have actually done some thinking, if not much actual work, on this project, here is the 'Rationale' to set the context for what I hope will be this Winter's project.

 

Whether it gets finished in time (or ever!) for the Organiser's deadline will remain to be seen!

 

 

 

The Red River Valley Light Railway

 

Part 1

A Little Real Background

 

The Hayle Railway was an early railway in West Cornwall, constructed to convey copper and tin ore from the Redruth and Camborne areas to the sea  ports of Hayle and Portreath. Coal, sand and lime, along with domestic commodities were carried inland.

 

It opened in 1837, and carried passengers on its main line from 1843. The ‘main line’ had several  branches: Tresavean, serving the mines around Carnkie and Wheal Buller on the slopes of Carn Brea; Portreath, connecting the line to the busy sea port on the north Cornish coast; Roskear, a short branch serving ore processing mills at Roscroggan and the important boiler making factory of Holman Bros. on the outskirts of Camborne; and the North Crofty Branch serving the Dolcoath and North Crofty mines. This branch was opened on 23rd December 1837 and together with the other mineral branches in the area remained standard gauge throughout its life.

 

It is this line that forms the basis of this particular flight of fancy. The North Crofty Branch left the main line by a trailing junction just east of Camborne station and ran through the mining landscape heading in a generally northerly direction.  At only 48 chains (0.6 miles) long, the branch was more of a twig on the main system, however it served some of the most prosperous mines in the area; at  17 chains along the branch was Cooks Kitchen Siding, a loop which handled the traffic for the nearby mighty Dolcoath mine. At 37 chains was Tuckingmill Mileage Siding which handled coal traffic. Here the line crossed the main Redruth to Camborne road at the summit of East Hill (and from 1902 the tracks of the Camborne – Redruth Electric Tramway) to serve North Crofty Mine. The track north of the road was  removed in 1937  and the branch was closed entirely on the 1st December 1948 and dismantled on the 7th November 1949.

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Diagram Ctsy. Cornwall Railway Society

 

The line terminated at North Crofty mine in an area known as Tolvaddon overlooking a shallow valley marking the course of the infamous Red River. This stream derived its name from the iron oxide and ochre waste generated by the numerous mining and ore processing works along its course. These operations used the river as a source of power in their processes and as a convenient means of disposing of the polluted water once it had served its purpose. Generations of Cornish residents will remember the thick red water making its way down to the sea at Gwithian beach and the great plume of sediment spreading out across St. Ives Bay. Nowadays, following extensive environmental measures, the Red River runs clear, and has subsequently been adopted as a nature reserve.

 

The dune system, which stretches between Hayle River in the west, and the Red River to the east on the southern side of St.Ives Bay, was worked for centuries for both sand and mineral deposits, and a large sand quarry operated until recently at Gwithian beach. After the First World War, and with the development of more efficient extraction methods, it was considered worthwhile re-working the mineral rich sediment brought down by the stream for tin and copper along with other metals which had been lost by the older, more primitive ‘streaming’ methods. Subsequently tons of ‘slimes’ as they are known in Cornish mining, were dredged for re-processing at an extensive streaming works just inland of Gwithian beach. 

 

 

And now some fictional history…

 

In my alternative universe, a new company – Red River Aggregates & Minerals Ltd, was established sometime around 1890 with a view to exploiting the sand deposits for building and agriculture. Around the same time the Light Railways Act had just been passed relaxing the stringent processes of getting a railway built in the hope that more rural and otherwise less economically rich  areas could be connected to the main railway system. The Management of the RRA&M approached the GWR, then the owners of the North Crofty Branch, with the proposal that they (the GWR) extend the Branch along the Red River valley to Gwithian Towans in order to facilitate the removal of the sand and dredged minerals. The GWR saw little profit in such a limited traffic, particularly since the history of Cornish mineral extraction is littered with supposedly lucrative schemes, which, in reality, turned out to be anything but, and accordingly the proposal was rejected.

 

Undeterred, the RRA&M sought its own Light Railway Order and set about constructing a private line which ran from the GWR’s sidings near the main road at North Crofty mine and followed the course of the Red River all the way to Gwithian beach. Here they erected machinery for extracting and grading the sands, along with loading silos where the sand was discharged directly into railway wagons. Further negotiations with the GWR allowed an end-on connection to be made to the North Crofty  Branch with exchange sidings from where their wagons could be worked back to the main line.

 

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Click on the map to enlarge

 

The Red River Valley Light Railway was built to standard gauge to facilitate through workings of wagons without the need for laborious trans-shipment, although a 2’ gauge system connected the sand quarry with the processing plant. Track was very light flat-bottomed rail spiked to sleepers obtained second-hand from the GWR and, with little in the way of earthworks, and the ease of working in the sandy terrain in the valley, the line was completed in less than a year and opened in 1898. The Company invested in one steam locomotive, a Hudswell Clarke 0-4-0 saddle tank, and around a dozen 8 ton wagons acquired secondhand from the Cambrian Railway.

 

Traffic was moderate, and trains ran as required amounting to around 100 tons of sand a week being shipped out, mainly for agricultural use.

 

Tourism in Cornwall, particularly in the more industrialised areas, was still in its infancy in the early 1900s and the little sand-carrying railway went about its business largely unnoticed. However, locals looking for a day by the seaside, began using the empty wagons returning to the sand pit as an impromptu means of getting to the coast at Gwithian which boasts a particularly fine stretch of golden beach some three miles long. In the opposite direction the rocky cove and island of Godrevy with its lighthouse, made famous by Virginia Woolfe, and the magnificent 200ft high cliffs at Hell’s Mouth made for good coastal walking. The Company was prepared to turn a blind eye to this practice until an intrepid travel writer published a piece in the national press about his trip to Gwithian Sands by …..‘an archaic little railway – one rides in the empty wagons! such primitive fun for a trip to the seaside!’

 

Given the rising interest in visiting the coast, the RRA&M began to consider if they might not have un-tapped potential in their railway enterprise. In 1903 they undertook modifications to the trackwork at Gwithian to re-align the run-round loop alongside a low platform and erected a basic  wooden and corrugated iron building which served as a booking office and waiting room. A wooden tea hut was also added and two rather basic carriages were acquired from a horse tramway in the North of England which was being electrified.

 

Whilst the lower terminus may have had some picturesque appeal, located as it was among the sand dunes and within sight of the sea, (if one ignored the sand processing apparatus and streaming works nearby), the upper terminus situated amid industrial wasteland did not, and the company applied to the GWR for running powers over the North Crofty Branch to a more convenient location. As other traffic on the branch was light and relations with  the RRA&M were amiable, the GWR agreed to allow trains to run as far as the sidings at Tuckingmill. Here  the Company  built a platform  with a wooden ticket office and waiting room adjacent to the main Redruth – Camborne road.

 

The upper terminus was conveniently situated close to the main road, (later to become the A30), above Tuckingmill, a mining village that had grown to become a suburb of Camborne, and which was served by the newly opened electric tramway, making it reasonably accessible to day trippers from both towns. Unfortunately, the trams did not serve either town’s main railway stations, so visitors from farther afield faced a complicated journey by train, foot, tram, and foot again. To overcome this the RRA&M hired a horse bus to ferry passengers to their station from Camborne, a service that continued during the summer months up to the outbreak of the Great War, but was never resumed thereafter.

 

Thus the railway was poised to enter the summer season of 1903 with a passenger carrying service. Advertisements were placed in various periodicals, national railway timetables and the Press. The first trains ran on Whit Saturday 1903 and with the promise of tea and buns at the beach, the service was highly popular, so much so that the original timetable was abandoned over the weekend and the train shuttled back and forth almost continuously.

 

In time, the railway settled into a more sedate routine. It was always intended that the passenger ‘trips’ would only operate during the summer months, there being little reason for anyone to need to use the line other than to visit the beach. So services began at Easter, were suspended again until the Whit Bank holiday, whereafter trains ran daily every two hours until dusk.  Trains also ran on Sundays, much to the disapproval of the local Wesleyan community, but nonetheless were well patronised especially in the afternoons by those seeking respite from interminable Chapel services.

 

During the summer it became clear that one locomotive was inadequate to manage both the passenger and the more lucrative minerals business, and so a second engine was purchased, second hand, from a firm of Contractors. This was a neat 0-6-0 Manning Wardle ‘I class’. These locomotives were highly popular with civil engineering contractors for their reliability and rugged construction. The Company constructed a locomotive shed and workshop on their own land close to Roscroggan stream works, and erected covered accommodation for the carriages along with water and coal facilities.

 

Passenger services were suspended during the 1914-18 war, and resumed in the summer of 1919. Sand and mineral traffic continued as before although the metalliferous mining industry in Cornwall had been in terminal decline for years and many of the stream works along the Red River were falling into disuse. The electric trams ceased in 1927 but bus services now at least served the mainline railway stations, and tourist traffic in the 1920s and 30s increased markedly, largely due to the vigorous publicity campaigns run by the GWR promoting the scenic attractions of the Cornish coast. The line even got a mention in Bradshaw’s Guide – the terminus with its tea shack at Gwithian being described as “Primitive, but tea!” The railway continued to provide a viable summer passenger service to the coast for tourists and Sunday trippers alike up to the outbreak of the Second World War when services were again suspended and, with the track in a poor state, lorries took over the sand transportation, and the line was quickly reclaimed by nature.

 

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Plan of Proposed Layout

 

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and yes, that is going to be the baseboard...…….

Edited by steve howe
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I do Like an entertaining back story, and that one is very entertaining. I like it a lot. Will follow with interest.

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Well, that's one up on the Baron von Harrap, with his ironing board layout!

 

Sounds great, Steve.

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OMG - I'm sitting in a building at the moment with the address of 1 North Crofty, Tolvaddon Business Park... Must look out for the Red River !!

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I seem to remember that there was at one time, a night club of that name, in that general area?

 

Oh yes...….. :biggrin_mini2:

and that's all I'm saying!

 

steve  :smoke:

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Much the safest course of action. It was preferable to the Flamingo at Pool, though. Couldn’t beat the Winter Gardens for a good night out, but flogging back up the A30 on a scratty old Beezer afterwards... naaaahhhh.... Edited by rockershovel

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.... From the outset I wanted to do something I hadn't attempted before which was to create a scene which deliberately deviated from the accepted cameo 'norm' of viewing model as a set piece as though in a theatre. I have built several layouts in the past based on this concept and they have all been satisfying both to build. operate and view, but I felt the time was right to break out of the prescribed mould and try a bit of thinking 'outside the box' as it were....…….

 

Hurrah. Boxing in layouts adds a claustrophobic element which is exactly the opposite of what's wanted for a layout in an open countryside setting. At best it gives an extra challenge that the layout design has to fight against if it wants to portray rolling acres, bleak and windswept levels or majestic peaks. At worst the box wins and all sense of space is lost.

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Part 2

Surf’s Up

 

Progress on this layout, like the temperature in the workshop, could best be described as glacial, however we are now at a stage where the baseboard is about ready to receive some trackwork.  First however, a little reflection on the thinking behind the project.

 

Small layouts have been built in ingenious situations for many years, and the Finescale Movement has embraced the challenge with enthusiasm (Rice et.al) with layouts appearing on ironing boards, in aquariums, suitcases, long case clocks, box files and musical instrument cases (the iconic 2mm ‘Inversneckie & Drambuie Railway’ even in its rather forlorn state on open storage display at the NRM, remains, to me, one of the most atmospheric layouts of all time) All have been exploited in addition to more conventional formats. The celebrated ‘shunting plank’ whilst often given a derogatory press, has become popular as a beginner’s introduction to a more ‘serious’ project; a solution to the pressures of time and space imposed by the modern lifestyle; or simply a small self-contained project providing a refreshing alternative  to a more ambitious scheme that may represent a lifetime’s work. Whatever the reasoning, tiny layouts are popular and we should embrace them as part of the rich heritage of our hobby.

 

This particular scheme came into being through thinking about light railways that were associated with the coast, possibly for industry, or some, as in the Rye & Camber, purely for leisure. It was at about the same time that I was casting around for a little project to make good use of an odd collection of eclectic  rolling stock acquired on whims over the years, and rootling around in the garage roof to find an elusive piece of ply, put away for just such a purpose, that I realised my old surfboard really was due for retirement. Memories of sunny teenage times spent on Gwithian Sands (and in the rather dodgy nightclub known as Sandsifters, located in convenient isolation in the old sand quarry at Gwithian beach) triggered the slightly eccentric (alright, alcohol-fuelled) notion that maybe the two could somehow be combined into a modelling project.

 

Gwithian’s industrial past has long been centered around sand extraction and streaming for tin and other metals from the Red River’s sediments, and a study of the 1906 OS map revealed a string of streaming works all along the Red  River valley which extended inland as far as the river itself. Crucially, the gradient was gentle all the way to the coast; a perfect opportunity for a light railway to serve these industries and the rationale for it was outlined in Part 1.

 

My plan was to try and create a working sand loading installation so that trains could actually be seen to be performing some kind of useful work. Also some excuse for a passenger service would be desirable to relieve an otherwise rather tedious operating schedule . A Longboard is not the ideal choice for a model railway baseboard; at around 7 feet long, sharply tapered at both ends with a ‘sheer’ i.e curve in the horizontal plane, of about 3” extending from nose to tail and side to side, it is not exactly conducive to the flat smooth surface needed for the laying of an accurate P4 (or any) track system. However the only advantage a surfboard has (other than for surfing) is that it is lightweight, strong and rigid and could be made to support a track foundation without too much modification. The actual presentation of the thing would throw up a whole raft of new challenges!

 

The first job was to see if any worthwhile trackplan could be set out on such a tight shape. A full-size template was made by drawing round the board onto a strip of lining paper, and, after an enjoyable hour spent fiddling about with paper templates and bendy laths (Templot? whats that?!) I arrived at a simple, but I think plausible, layout. 

 

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“Form follows Function” was the mantra of my old design lecturer, and the track layout reflects that – no three-way points, glittering diamonds or sparkling slips here! The traffic needs are very simple; mineral trains take priority; empty wagons arrive and are shunted straight under the sand hoppers, full wagons are pulled out, run round and taken away. What little other goods traffic comprises the odd wagon of oil in cans for the gas engines powering the screening machinery, coal for the kitchen at the tea shack and locomotive supplies, and one or two covered vans carrying consumables for the sand works. It is assumed the main locomotive and carriage sheds are further up the line at Roscroggan, so locomotive servicing facilities will comprise a tank and standpipe for water and a simple coal bin. Passenger operations (summer only) amount to not much more than running round the carriages, dealing with any attached freight wagons, and departing, after a suitable pause. Dull? Well the truth is that’s how a lot of pre-war light railways were, a well-tried, predictable routine which varied little over the decades.

 

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The paper template was used to design a track-base which closely followed the outer line of the sleepers except where a flat surface where structures such as platform or sand hoppers were intended. The plan was to exploit the natural curves of the surfboard as much as possible with the land falling away below track level to the banks of the Red River itself.

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The track-base was cut from one piece of 9mm ply which was braced underneath with a spine of 40mm aluminium angle except at the points where the ply actually made contact with the surfboard. Here the aluminium  was cut to follow the contour of the board so that the trackbase finished more or less touching the tips of the surfboard at either end.

 

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Clearly any wiring, point actuation and any other normally sub-baseboard gubbins would all have to be surface mounted, but I had intended from the start that control systems would be as simple as possible. To ensure the surfboard stood level, a simple wooden frame made from 3” x 1”timber was glued to its underside and painted black. (having first removed many years’ accretions of board wax) Thus with the board either stood on a tabletop, or a set of trestles, it would always remain level (this was also necessary to allow clearance for the fins underneath) I wanted to ensure that the origins of the unconventional baseboard were not disguised, so display is to be fairly utilitarian, no black drapes, no fascia or wings and the layout left free-standing so it can be viewed all round.

 

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The trackbase was glued and screwed to the spine with self-tapping screws.  Care was taken to ensure the ply stayed flat and additional vertical supports had to be cut and fitted in the gap towards the centre. Finally, expanding foam was used to bond the ply to the board and give additional support.

 

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Foam application was done in the warmth of the kitchen when the Beloved was safely out at work....

 

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Its not the most predictable of stuff. Masking tape was applied to the surfboard so that the surplus foam would come away easily after trimming.

 

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The raw edges will be filled and sanded to blend into a scenic profile mounted on the board above. Its much easier to fit a ply strip to a flat surface than to a multi-curved one!

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The foam was carved back to form a basis for the river bank. The Red River is already evident!

 

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There was not enough space to contain a cassette deck within the outline of the surfboard, so I had to cheat a bit and extend the cassette deck over the edge.

 

So next steps are to put down the underlay and start building some track!

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Having been at Railex recently and felt slightly guilty at my tardy progress with this project I thought a brief update was well overdue. The pointwork is now all completed apart from fixing down and connecting the rodding, so I feel a hurdle has been overcome and the finishing of the plain track is now well in hand. Using Code 55 flat bottom rail has been a new learning curve for me and I found working with FB rail 'challenging' to say the least! partly I think because of its small section, I would think working with a heavier rail section would be easier - to see if nothing else! - I also learnt quite a bit about the subtleties of switch rail shaping so that it fits snugly against the stockrails without the old modeller's dodge of filing a notch in the foot of the stockrail to accommodate it - the switch rail is shaped so as to ride up and rest on the foot flange without any alteration to the stockrail whatsoever. I think I shall be sticking to bullhead in the future!

 

Trackwork is almost all constructed on PCB sleepering on the basis that most of it will be covered in sand. No histrionics here, all straightforward stuff using Code 55 flat bottom steel rail. All the pointwork was built as a ‘fishbone’ i.e the crossing assembly and straight stock rails assembled on a drawing and then pinned in place to achieve gentle curves before the rest of the rails were added in-situ. 

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A few sections of sleeper were left visible where the sand was deemed to have blown away, and here normal ply and rivet sleepering was used with the sleepers turned upside down and the rail sweated to the rivet foot. The track foundation is 3mm cork, with such a vulnerable rail section, I wanted a firm support, the code 55 steel rail is easily bent. I thought I would have to rebate the cork to accommodate the rivet heads, but in practice this has not been necessary.  

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Tie bars  are the wire in PTFE tube as formerly supplied by the Scalefour Stores, but now I believe marketed by C&L. They look frail, but provided the soldering is sound, are robust enough in operation.

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Hopefully progress might be a bit more rapid from now on!

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Jumping ahead slightly....well quite along way as far as I'm concerned.... I have attached a couple of reference images upon which the sand-sifting plant will (might) be based.

 

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The hopper will be arranged to accommodate a maximum of three wagons under the loading chutes and the wooden superstructure will probably rest on some unlovely weather-worn concrete blockwork (very typical of Cornish industrial building in the early 20thC)

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Corrugated iron and concrete block - no one said this was ever going to be pretty!

 

Tracklaying continues - more in a bit.

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Posted (edited)

Tracklaying, apart from the cassette units, completed yesterday.

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It was a lot easier to stick the sleepers down first, then add the rails.

 

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Even though they are A5 turnouts, they look quite smooth.

 

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Rather a gloomy shot, with the sand sidings now in place.

 

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Just the wiring and point actuation now.

 

 

 

 

Edited by steve howe
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Will you be strapping this surfboard to the car roof , as is normal in our part of the world?

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1 hour ago, Stubby47 said:

Will you be strapping this surfboard to the car roof , as is normal in our part of the world?

VW Combi shirley?

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3 hours ago, St Enodoc said:

VW Combi shirley?

 

Now how about a 'layout in a camper van' challenge? it means exhibiting might be a bit restricted to the NEC or Ally Pally tho.....

 

I did think about having a VW Combi parked on the layout with a board on the roof and a model of the model on the board............ thankfully I sobered up in time, and anyway, it would be out of period for me.

Steve

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Not much to show, but much activity on the M & E side with wiring and point actuation complete, allowing for playing of trains....sorry, extensive testing to take place. The usual bit of filing and furtling, fettling and faffing to get things to stay on the rails most of the time, and things appear to be working. Point actuation is self-explanatory using mini-slider switches drilled to take 0.5mm nickel silver wire bent into a 'Z' to create a spring and soldered to the wire tiebar. The wire in PTFE tube type described earlier have been supplemented in places by the Masokits etched tiebar which is more robust.

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A primitive platform has been built and the general arrangement of the buildings planned.

 

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Just making a start on the buildings along with the scenic profile which has to enclose most of the scene.

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"A Longboard is not the ideal choice …"

 

my first board, circa 1968, was a Surfboards Hawaii slug - 9'6" with 2" balsa stringer and plexiglass tailblock. blue pigmented resin just to add a little extra pa-zing!

 

following along closely.

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August seems to now be the monsoon season in Cornwall, not much fun for tourists, but handy for railway modellers looking to escape from gardening etc. for a day or two.

 

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The trickiest job was always going to be fitting a scenic profile around the board. I glued small wooden blocks around the perimeter of the baseboard with strong wood glue and left them for 48 hours to set. The blocks were set about 3mm in from the baseboard edge to accommodate the scenic profile. I had originally intended doing this in thin ply, but the acute bend at the stern made even the thinnest ply I could find unmanageable, fortunately I had some sheets of 4mm Foamex scrounged from my local B&Q when they were changing their displays. This stuff is widely used in the exhibition and display industry for mounting graphics. It is light, surprisingly easy to cut and, crucially, very flexible. I made a rough cardboard template of the profile and used this to cut a continuous strip of Foamex to shape. The acute bend was helped by vertical scoring on the inside face. The facia was clamped and glued with Evo-stik Gripfil to the blocks with a few strategic screws to make sure everything stayed in place. Eventually the expanding foam filler will be sanded back, the screws removed, and the whole filled with polyester filler to make a smooth profile linking the scenery to the surfboard.

 

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 The profile in place and a basic mock-up (or maybe c*ck-up) of the loading bins.

 

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The timber revetment holding back the encroaching sandunes in trial position. The horizontal beam marks the position of a bridge carrying a 2' gauge tramway from the sand pits.

 

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The initial scenic profiles are starting to go in. This is to get an idea of the basic landform before the intermediate profiles are added.

 

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More profiles added.

 

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A lattice of thin card (cornflake packet) woven over the profiles. I like this method of making landforms even though its been around for donkey's years, because it is a) cheap as chips; b) easy to alter if you don't like it; c) if its good enough for Pendon and Jack Kine, its good enough for me!

 

 

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Looking really good Steve.

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Agree with the above Steve, it's really coming along well.

Steve.

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Progress continues erratically. The basic shell for the landscape has gone in and awaiting final texturing.

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My Mod-Roc had 'gone off' in storage so it wasn't so easy to get the nice smooth contour I was after, so a second coat of Polyfilla slurry was applied to even things out. The final texturing should settle everything in.  The cutting and bridge bringing the 2' tramway to the plant is present in embryonic form.

 

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Hopefully progress might speed up now the messy bit's over!

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Landscape

The foundation for the scenery is my favoured method of vertical profiles cut from corrugated board scrounged from the local supermarket hot-glued to the baseboard with 30 – 40mm spacers glued between forming an ‘egg-crate’ structure. Strips of thinner card (old cereal packet is just right) about 10mm wide are glued over the surface in a lattice formation and covered with Mod-Roc scrim. I like this stuff because you can fit it in place dry and finish edges neatly before brushing with water to set. Finally an ‘earth mix’ of 1 part Polyfilla to 2 parts dry sieved soil with a generous splodge of PVA mixed to a thinnish slurry is brushed over the scrim to give a tough shell.

 

Final basic texturing uses  the ‘Zip texture’ method first described by Linn Wescott in Model Railroader magazine more years ago than I care to remember. It was much used by David Jenkinson on his epic ‘Little Long Drag’ layout in the early ‘80s, but it seems to have fallen out of favour. Odd, because it is a very quick and effective method of getting a semi-finished scenic surface on which further detailed work can be undertaken.

 

 In essence, dry plaster is mixed with dry powder pigment of the desired colour. Experimentation is needed to gauge the proportions of pigment to plaster, and it is very much a case of trial and error with small samples until a suitable ratio is reached. In my case I used a mortar dye for colouring cement which was a strong yellow ochre or raw sienna shade. For the record, although I doubt it’s of much use to anyone, my ratio was 5 parts dry Polyfilla to 1 part pigment. This was measured into a large screw top jar and shaken vigorously  to mix.

 

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The area to be treated was liberally sprayed with water to which a drop of washing-up liquid was added, and the plaster mix sifted over from an old tea strainer.

 

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A gentle over-spray will help set the mix. The moisture is absorbed into the plaster which  over several hours eventually sets hard. It is important not to touch the surface until the plaster is fully set otherwise the granular texture will be lost.

 

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The texture can be built up with subsequent siftings and sprayings until the desired effect is reached. This provided a good general ‘sandy’ surface upon which further Art can be performed.

 

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A good video with ‘recipes’ for various colours can be seen here:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gtd4bNmpQ1k

 

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The future's bright... the future's orange!

 

 

 

 

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Well you didn't expect it to stay that colour did you? Here's the start of the footpath leading up and over the dunes. The lighting rather accentuates the texture, in reality its not as coarse as this, and further work with the airbrush will tone it down more.

 

The loose ‘sand’ which covers virtually all the trackwork, road surfaces and the working areas needed careful thought as it had to have a very fine but discernable texture. My background in ceramics led me to a substance called ‘grog’ used by potters to temper clay to reduce cracking and thermal shock. It is in fact fired clay which is then milled to grades ranging from coarse grit to something resembling sandy flour. I got mine via a local school, but it can be had from pottery suppliers online. Grog was sieved over areas pre-painted with PVA, brushed into place and then fixed with a more dilute PVA either from a dropper or hand spray. I recently discovered that Attwood Aggregates sell a similar material which is even finer, and this has been used to supplement the grog along with dried and finely sieved soil.

 

Vegetation

The coarse Marran grass that is about the only thing that will grow on sandunes, I’m doing in two ways; clumps were created in great numbers by placing blobs of glue on non-stick baking  parchment taped to a metal tray. Then with the earth clip connected, coated first with 6mm ‘straw’ fibres from the electrostatic machine, and then with short 2mm ‘summer green’ fibres which fell between the longer stems and gave a good impression of fresh growth appearing at the base.

 

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When set they can be peeled off and stuck in place. I experimented with several glue mediums as I know many scenic modellers have also searched for the ‘ideal’ glue. The Greenscenes Flock Adhesive is very good and works best when thinly spread but can work out a bit pricey if you have large areas to cover.  Neat PVA dries a bit hard and shiny and tends to not be sticky enough to hold long fibres upright; Matte Medium, a thicker variant on PVA used for mixing with acrylic paints for impasto work, seemed OK, but for tufts and tussocks I found good old Copydex did the trick. The technique of tuft making has been well covered in a video by Luke Towan, an amiable youth from the Antipodes:
 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iFXgSky6JMU

 

so I won’t elaborate here because my technique almost exactly mirrored his. The only advantage of using Copydex is that it dries flexible and I discovered an interesting side-effect; as I use Copydex to fix the sleepers down, the two glued surfaces formed a bond even though they were both ‘cured’. This was very useful when placing clumps between the rails!

 

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The clumps will form the ragged edge to more densely covered grass areas, the track has yet to receive its ballast.

 

And just to show I haven't been letting the grass grow under my feet....

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I've been making a little Ruston for the sand tramway. Its a Brian Madge kit and whilst not exactly 'fall together' it makes up into a characterful little loco. Unfortunately its out of period for the layout as these locos weren't introduced until (I think) 1947, but I found the world of 009 IC locomotive kits a complete minefield, and most of them seem to be unavailable anyway or require an obsolete or very expensive donor chassis, that I turn a blind eye to that one! Its a pity the motor intrudes so far into the cab but the addition of a portly whitemetal driver should hide most of it. The skips are Roco, and with a little modification can be made to tip.

 

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Now back to grass growing!

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Edited by steve howe
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