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Nine Mills, N gauge end to end layout project.

Leicester Thumper

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 This thread will hopefully provide the chronical that is my layout building effort. A short history is relevant before the meat and potatoes,  as the concept which I envisioned this layout for has changed somewhat.  


I started constructing this layout about 9/10 years ago, where I made the start on the base board.... and then that was that. I was around 21 at the time, and had other pursuits on ones mind (not that they were successful!). Roll on about ten years, a change of house, job location, fortunes on finding my partner, and I felt ready with gusto to have a crack again to complete this layout! 


The Concept was relatively simple, at the time I didn't have a car, I didn't drive and I relied on public transport. This meant that I would need a form factor that was of a manageable size that could be boxed up and carted on something similar to a granny style shopping trolley. That would mean easy portability and stowage. 


As such, I needed a light material that was strong. I decided, therefore, the best option to use was Balsa wood.... yeah I know, I also question my own sanity sometimes. The layout would be small in width but three for in length


As the years have gone on, needs have changed.  I now drive and, in fairness, I don't have the time right now to display at exhibitions.


In the present,  I just need something to run trains on! I still don't have an N gauge layout, despite amassing nearly 100 locos. 


So, this is what I'm starting with, a 3foot x 9 inch board, with back and sides.20230819_142322.jpg.a32df27a011bee554b678a144451447d.jpg


The boars is also braced underneath and at the back. The cost of the layout could have been cheaper, had I not used Balsa. 




The woodwork won't win any awards, but still, it functions as it should.




Don't ask me for measurements of individual pieces, I can't remember what was what but if it works it works.


So that brings us to today. After a gap of 9 years of working on the board, I finally added the right hand end piece, as well as paint the back blue to start the backscene development process. My father did get stuck in too, to give me a guiding hand. I would be stuck without him. Whilst I go and do things my way, he does help provide pointers on giving a bit of finesse. 


Using a Balsa plank, I cut two 190mm long parts, sanded the edges to size where needed, and superglued them down. I then cut a 190mm long piece of I think, 6mm x 25mm Balsa strip as a Cross brace. A bit of shaving away a recess on the lower board for the up stanchion was necessary and this was completed with a scalpel. 


As I was using the forementioned scalpel, my ASD brain and coordination decided to just disappear and I managed to cut a 1cm long by 4mm deep gash on my thumb. "Oh dear, that really hurt, that scalpel is a bit of a devil" is the PG rated version of actually what happened.


Anyway, with the up stanchion sorted and glued, along with the top edge, we ended up with something like this:



That looks better! And it feels great to do something progressive! 


That wasn't all though, I decided to paint the blue sky base for my backscene on the back and side panels of the scenic area. Also sanded various edges and surfaces to just add some neatness to the woodwork. It was also handy to do some sanding as this removed the odd nick and potential to splinter, thus removing the risk of me coming a cropper whilst moving the layout. 


Dad then went "ooh" and went in the garage, he came out and produced some pine strip which was leftover (in our house we never throw wood away!!), and then cut apiece to go along the front edge of the board. It definitely looks neater with it on! This was glued with some PVA, and masking tape tightly applied to add pressure for the glue to set. 


Two coats of Wilko Moody Blue emulsion, from a test pot, some sanding and a strip of pine has brought us to this:20230819_190348.jpg.b7a6fffd898566dbe5f46fd990b9ce00.jpg


That's a lot better! Next up will be finalising the track plan and cracking on with the back scene. 


Now, you might be thinking, ye gods, that's a lot of waffle for a baseboard! And yes, it is! However, this is the part about outlining what era and operations I wish to model.


Now,  as any well rounded enthusiast, I have a love and appreciation for multiple eras, areas, companies and locomotive designs. Therefore, I decided to make the layout as flexible as possible on the era it is set in. I did some rudimentary thinking in my head (dangerous, that), and came up with a period of 1950ish to about 1973ish. A wide period, agreed, but I have reasoned logic behind it. When British Railways settled on it's type face and styling, it was a pretty consistent thing, far and wide. Obviously, when the steam era came to an end, aesthetics started to change, but stations were not massively rapid at changing in some parts. In my mind, it's reasonable to assume that a station would in essence be in a similar condition in 1970 as it was in say 1953. 


With that sorted, a location is next on the list. This has given me great trouble, I'm a Midland man by work on the railways, an Eastern fan by heart, but I also have a strange attachment to the East London and North London Line. So I'm thinking the location will be somewhere Midland region, but it could be done in such a Fashion that it would be in place on London, or the bustling suburbs of Leicester. That's when it hit me, textile mills! 


Leicester was synonymous with producing textiles and foot ware, as were places like Northampton, Bradford, Nottingham etc. and a mill doesn't necessarily have to make textiles, buildings do get repurposed. So I've settled on a fictitious station which could find itself in numerous places, leaving it like an open ended novel. 


The story I have in mind is that Nine Mills station is on the end of a suburban/ industrious branch line. It doesn't serve the factories, but it provides workers trains, as well as regular services to the nearby city station. I will have a fiddleyard, but my track layout will play into the story that there is a branch line which supplies an industry. So trains that come in from BR will change locos in the station, and set off up the branch and vice versa. This means I could run coal, Iron Ore, Vans, Fuel tankers anything I choose. This provides variety as well as shunting oppertunities. 


In terms of inspirations for the above, I cite Minories OO gauge as one of them. There is another one, I saw it at the Loughborough show last week, however, I forgot the name of it so will edit in here in a bit. 


So that's where we are. Hope to do some more work to it soon. 


Thanks as always for reading.

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This week will be a bit quiet, at least until the weekend, as 4.30am alarm clocks and 06.30 starts beckon until Friday. 


In the meantime, a bit of thinking is taking place (oh no!), especially surrounding track layouts. Now, nearly 2 years ago,  I asked for some suggestions and feedback on potential designs. Mine was far too adventurous, however, a very nice gent from Australia called Rich Ferraro drew up some ideas for me. Now obviously, it not fastidious that one if these suggestions would be "the one", but my line of thinking is a combination of plans 3 and 4. Anyone who can give further sage advice is most welcome to do so. 


Please note, I am very aware that there is a watermark on the images, these seem to have appeared by default from my Canon printer scanner unit. It's the first time I've scanned directly to mobile/ tablet. **I know they are the wrong orientation, yet despite correcting and saving the change on my tablet, when I upload its no good, sorry**



So whilst I mull over suggestions, I'm going hunting for backscene buildings of flat relief. 

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An update on minor progress today. 


Today I got most of the way to cutting out the backscene elements. 


For my backscene scenics,  I will be using some Urban Scenics (by Sankey Scenics) 2mm flat relief buildings. For this I bought a set of factory buildings, one set mill buildings and two sets terraced backs. They are printed onto decent quality paper, with the buildings and notes typically on the same sheet. They are then packaged further in a plastic sleeve, before being delivered in a protective envolope. I ordered these last year.


To commence the cutting process I set up on the dining table with my cutting sheet, scalpel, spare blades and a metal ruler. My mother was in today and she let me borrow a magnifying stand which helped save me hunching my shoulders over the workspace. 


Today's session started with the factory buildings. The mills have already been done. 




as you can see, the vast majority of this one is cutting straight lines, with some precision work required for the chimney. Using the metal rule and a scalpel, icut all the straight sides with the bestprecision I could muster. For smaller details,I used a very steady hand and did it freehand, a bit at a time. By and large this method works. It is fiddly, but with concentration you can succeed. 




This image above shows just how precise it needs to be to stop the white paper being exposed beyond the printed edge.


Below, one of the cut out factory products.




The next post will detail the terraced backs.



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The terraced backs were trickier to cut out, well they were for me, as the chimneys are rather fiddly. 


I only got half of one sheet done as I was making mistakes so I knew it was time to put down the scalpel for the day.


The Sankey terraced backs have been well made, in terms of offering a variety of window frames, curtains, chimneys and back walls, truly reflecting the nature of terraced housing over the years. One thing that I have noticed before, is that some people have terraced backs but they look too uniform, if that remotely makes sense. I feel these backs overcome that problem. 


Like the factories, the housing comes on one A4 sheet, with the notes on the same page. I do find this product more confusing though, asthe notes mention there's additional bridging and roofing prints..... I'm trying to find where they are! It's no bother though, as I have more than enough with 2 sheets. 


Now this took longer to do, because of a forced interlude to walk and play with my fluffy white nightmare, whom I love so much.




The photos below are of some of the cut out bits laid out together, to see what they are like and so far, I'm impressed! 




The second image is with my ruler showing height, I know the ruler isn't straight,I just noticed!! 




So it's not overly exciting..... but it is progress. 


So the plan is this. Blue sky on the back board is painted, the factories and mill will be applied first. I will glue them to mounting board and set them a touch higher than the houses. 


The house will then go on top of the factories and mills, also on mounting card. In front of the houses will be a scale 7ft brick wall kit, in Victorian style. 


Obviously I have realised my landscape is fairly flat and square..... so I'm thinking of making a small embankment with modelling clay to give a further depth to the scene. However, I'm not sold on it just yet. 


That's all for now, but more will be done over the weekend.  



Edited by Leicester Thumper
Spelling on tablets is hard sometimes
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Another day, more cutting out. 


Whilst a flat ish back scene is saving on space and cost, on this relatively small layout, it's causing me to learn a great deal of patience doing all the cutting and trimming necessary. I'm also thinking of taking shares in Swann & Morton Scalpel blades, as more than a couple will probably be necessary!!


Throughout the course of cutting around chimneys we did have only one accident, which is pretty good. I was half expecting that the cutting would be more akin to a budget crossed with a chainsaw massacre,  but as it turns out,  my skills do surpass my expectations!!!




All the housing parts have now been cut out, using cutting, slicing and various other -ings used in the wider English lexicon. The pieces also included these:



These parts I thought I had no use for but I might have use yet. With clever splicing, I could use the odd house or two to gap fill, providing that I cut dead straight down the middle of the chimney stacks,  as illustrated with the ruler position. 




With the majority of the parts cut out,  I loosely placed these onto the board,  whilst laying the board on it's back. Obviously, I have plenty of chance to move things before deciding on a final design,  which is already giving me a headache. 


Example of what I have are the following photo. 



The next task I started doing was cutting out various parts of a kit to build 7 foot Victorian walls. The kit is from modelrailwayscenary(dot)com. I got a far as the 6 foundation steps before I stopped for the day,  as I need a break from severe concentration. 


EDIT: building positions will be determined and then I can plan my embankment. 




So that's how far I am today. 


Thoughts now turn to finalising the back scene elements, as well as station design. This is because how my station building will end up, however that is, the background scene on that left side end will have to fit in with the design of station I choose. At the moment I'm having a hard time visualising what j would like. Trying to find 3D printed low relief Midland stations is difficult, and unless I want to scratch build or kit bash,  I don't have many options. 


I have thought of getting a metcalfe country station kit and just adapting the design to how I want it. On the other hand I'm tempted to commission someone to design me a building that I can get printed. 


Updates will slow down now, as I'm occupied for tomorrow but I then go into a 7 day stretch of late turns.....


In the meantime j will continue to look for inspiration and any advice or wisdom will be well received. 


Many thanks. 




Edited by Leicester Thumper
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OK, managed to squeeze in a few hours today building the retaining wall kit.


Good god, you need patience for that. As photos will illustrate, it's a step by step thing this. 


So the base parts dried curved. Seems to be a persistent issue that I'm having. So some wedding under a heavy pile of books may be needed. 



The next part was to cut out the second layer, which has middle bits cut out, to give a wrapped texture illusion of depth. The texture wraps needed for this bit have a black X which needs cutting to create 4 flaps to "wrap" round the back. Part of these lines were hard to see,  due to the black not showing well on a red brick texture. 20230829_114301.jpg.26345008695a9527df4a23eadd70973f.jpg


With the parts cut out, the crosses cut, and then glue to the card,  the parts looked like this



And it was then time to glue these flaps at the back. 



This was a right pain to do on the two I did today. The first one I tried to glue the flaps down with Hobbycraft tacky glue, but this seemed messy and was encouraging the card to bend. As I happened to be out this afternoon, I bought a couple of Pritt stick glues to aid in building. 


This sorta worked? I had to put on a bit more glue than first thought,  but the flaps stuck better. After, I had done that,  I mated the two out of six completed with their back parts. 


They came out something like this:



So, over the next week,  until my next day off,  I'll do an hour or two here and the to build the wall sections. 


And also, if doesn't look much,  but I blunted the point of my scalpel blade. New blade on the bottom. May not seem a big difference, but I certainly felt the difference with the cutting. 




Lastly,  I saved all the excess squares from the cutting progress. These measure 10mm x 5mm each,  which is a scale 5 foot x 2.5 foot. Not sure how I could use them,  but perhaps pavement flagstones?  Waste not,  want not and all that!


Until next time,  


Edited by Leicester Thumper
I still can't spell correctly on my tablet!
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4 hours ago, Revolution Ben said:


Hi Bruce


Great job!


I use Scalescenes a lot and I am a big fan.  I have found it easier to print onto A4 sized sticky labels, then for lots of the parts the messy gluing stage can be circumvented.




Ben A.


Now that's a grand idea! Might be worth me looking into that.


Thanks Ben. 


Also some of Revolution's class A/B tankers will hopefully feature on this layout when done. Lovely wagons they are!





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12 hours ago, Multigauge said:

I've found the wall kits a pain when it comes to gluing the flaps back. I've used pritt (others are available) and Rocket card glue.

I'm not sure what the key is, but using self adhesive paper sounds like a winner..

 Self adhesive paper might be the best option. But since I've started I'll stick it out with the card kit and see how it goes. I might need another kit, as I need more than the 30 inches that the kit gives me.


We shall see. I might be able to get away with not using more walls, depends on what elements I can find and utilise.

Edited by Leicester Thumper
Samsung, not so auto correct.
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Minor update, sorry its not exciting. More gluing,  cutting and sticking tonight. 


The restarting walls are fiddly to do, and I was starting to find that trying to glue all the flaps down on the B sections all in one go a bit of a hassle m so I have enacted a new system. 


These are freshly glued sections drying out



I then glue half the flaps down, that being the smaller flaps. (Top one was done in one go and it got messy with the Pritt Stick)




I will leave these to cure overnight so that I can glue the other flaps down and combine the backs and front together in one go. 


When that was done,  I made a start on the pillars which hide the joints in the wall sections. The card, left, gets glued to the back of the brick paper,  right, centrally. When this is done and dry,  I then need to score the sides,  fold and glue them down. It's a fiddly job that requires patience and slow speed to make sure the flaps get glued neatly.






And to finish off today's post, here's 3 wall sections that I have completed. One of these has been touched up on the white parts with a brown felt to pen, and I think it improves it.  




In the next post, I will offer you com posted wall sections,  and will then put minor focus on the pillars and the coping stones. 


Sorry its a bit boring! 

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Quick post. 


Had a very rough sketch, which isn't to scale, of how I wish my station building to potentially look. I know it's a terrible photo of the drawing but bear with, not able to get to the scanner at the moment. 


I'm having problems envisioning how to build said building. I say build, as so far I haven't found anything RTR or Kit wise which I want to just saw in half and use. So I'm thinking of kitbashing. 


Now my issue is, and please folks do respond with ideas here as I feel lost, I want it to have a finish like a metcalfe kit. Problem is, if I use metcalfe roof slates and brick textures, where on earth do I get the doors from?!? 


It's something for me to think over. Things will pick up latter side of the week as I go back into more sociable early turns. 



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  • 2 weeks later...

Quick update time. Not had chance to do much modelling due to my shifts and being occupied with other things (my partner) on my rest days.


Bad news, it's another post about building walls.


Good news, all the components are made up now, with final gluing together to happen when I'm happy with my backscene arrangements. 


Iv completed making the walls, and the fiddly coping stones. Now all happily done. 








so now that is finally done, and I am never building walls again (!), I will lay out the backscene buildings on the board and make measurements relating to their position. When that's done I can move to gluing parts to mounting card and cut them out before final application to the backscene. 


So,  slow progress, but it's getting there. 


Edited by Leicester Thumper
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OK, had chance today to get a few more hours of head scratching done. 


So, I finally made a move to mount some of the buildings onto the Daler board which I will be using to make depth. I stuck down the buildings with a good dose of Pritt stick, which did the job perfectly with no fuss. 


As you can see, I need to trim around the tops of the buildings,  the 60mm drop below goes flush down to the bottom ready for the next layer to go on top.



I must stress, this mounted part has not been affixed to the back yet, as trimming needs to be done and I need to play with other elements to make sure I get the depth I need. That brings me to my next point rather conveniently....


So, there's two ideas. idea A is a back row of factories with one row of houses. The victorian wall will be in front, with an option to stage the houses from left to right,  in order to have a rising embankment,  leading to a road overbridge far right as a scenic break to the fiddle yard. 



Idea B sees a back row of factories, a middle row of houses, and a front row of houses. Again, the victorian wall will be in front and part of these are evident in the shot as an example. The picture has a few houses missing, as I need a few more. Idea B also leaves a chance for an embankment, but one that smaller and thus shallower, which would give some elevated physical relief, without creating an incursion on the already narrow 9inch corridor. 




The question is which is better?  I'm planning towards B, but the simplicity of A might be better. 

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both are equally valid!


In industrial areas the Victorians crammed as much housing into a given space as they could to give cheap, affordable housing for the mass of workers that industry needed.   Just look at photo's of industrial areas of any city from the middle Victorian period to the 1970's and you'll see what I mean.  Houses were small, with small backyards with an alley between them and gardens non-existent!



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I have built many things using Scalescenes kits as a base and they are easily adaptable to make into something completely different. Like Ben says, Prit Stick and similar are also my preferred adhesives as I find the Deluxe glue too messy.


I do like the Scale Model Scenery wall though, and have just the spot for it, but it’s just a shame they don’t do matching goods yard style gates which is rather holding me back until I find something suitable. 


Edited by Dragonboy
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22 hours ago, Leicester Thumper said:


I'm interested, any particular reason why? 


I'm leaning more towards B as I think about it....


I feel B doesn't quite look right. May be if the second row of houses were lower, or just roof tops???

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On 21/09/2023 at 09:35, 37Oban said:



both are equally valid!


In industrial areas the Victorians crammed as much housing into a given space as they could to give cheap, affordable housing for the mass of workers that industry needed.   Just look at photo's of industrial areas of any city from the middle Victorian period to the 1970's and you'll see what I mean.  Houses were small, with small backyards with an alley between them and gardens non-existent!




And I think B covers all of that quite well. An industrious suburban area, built in Victorian times, with the bendigo of it being Midland region, which could place it in the industrial North, the textiles capitals of the Midlands, or the equally grafting factories of East end London. 


On 21/09/2023 at 09:46, Dragonboy said:

I have built many things using Scalescenes kits as a base and they are easily adaptable to make into something completely different. Like Ben says, Prit Stick and similar are also my preferred adhesives as I find the Deluxe glue too messy.


I do like the Scale Model Scenery wall though, and have just the spot for it, but it’s just a shame they don’t do matching goods yard style gates which is rather holding me back until I find something suitable. 



The wall is nice, even if it's a slight pig to get spot on. Pritt stick was my saviour with that. Admittedly, I don't use the likes of rocket card glue, instead going for cheap and cheerful Pritt stick and Tacky glue from Hobbycraft. Scale model scenery mixed a trick there, if there was a small selection of complementing gates for various uses, that would be the icing on the cake. 


On 21/09/2023 at 21:09, Davexoc said:


I feel B doesn't quite look right. May be if the second row of houses were lower, or just roof tops???


Possibly.... although I'm growing to like B. I see what you are saying though. Food for thought,  nevertheless. 

Edited by Leicester Thumper
Correcting yet more typo's
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Small progress today for about an hour and a bit.  


Not had much chance this week to do modelling, further complicated by flat hunting to move in with my partner (christ that's stressful). 


So, I'm going with option B, I have considered all feedback, and many good points were raised, thank you for providing those views. In my heart, I'm being told to for option B, don't know why,  but hey, modelling is a part time of happiness, and if I feel happy making the decision, why not?  


So on that note I ordered another sheet of terraced backs from Sankey Scenics, and have already cut out one of the parts I've needed to complete the second row. 20230928_155417.jpg.63e85d3a255c24d5126311b857e9a5a1.jpg


the top one,  my dad cut out when helping the proof of concept for the backscene.  The bottom one is mine and I feel I've done well. 


I also started trimming up the first layer on the mounting card. This was tricky cutting wise. A Scalpel wouldn't cut it, so I used a snap blade knife and it went through the card lovely. I didn't take photos of every step today, however, I found the core cutting easier with the snap blade, and then I used the scalpel to neaten things up. Mounting board is fibrous in the middle, and the stray strands of fibre can impede the final product.  




Now I haven't done the whole length yet,  as this is both time consuming and focus intensive. Where there s small gap between the factories on the left, I will stick in some brick sheet or a chimney stack over it,  so that everything n looks joined up. 


That's all for today. 

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