Langstead – Episode 20: Up (& Other Updates)

It’s been a while, but here’s what I have been doing on The Main Line this year…

You’ll remember in Episode 18, that it had always bothered me that I had kept the entire layout open and visible- making it that bit less realistic. In fact I said just this:

“If I was going to start again from scratch I’d hide half the layout behind some scenery, a wall or hill perhaps. Trains would disappear behind such a wall and reappear elsewhere which would look visually more realistic than being able to see the full oval. This after all is how many modellers design their layouts. Continue reading

Langstead – Episode 8: Playing Sim City: Part 2

Last time I talked about buildings and my town/village scene. These need to inevitably be accompanied by some roads.
As per usual there’s a range of options… 
We could paint the road on. This option is preferred by many modellers and looks very good. However my predicament is that the entire board is covered with ballast-mat and whilst stripping it off in patches is an option; stripping it down to the bare wood again is going to be difficult. 
We could opt for a tarmac coloured scatter, but these may provide the same or similar texture as the green (grass) and I don’t think that would feel right…
…So I’ve found some of this! It’s sticky back road-in-a-strip from Gaugemaster and it’s pretty cheap. 
I’ve also got myself some of these! Little sticky paving slabs.
First job is to mark out where you want your road to be constructed.
Then strip back the ballast-mat with a chisel. The goal is to get as much of the wood showing as possible but it is OK if it’s not 100%. We are going to stick over it after all! Just as long as it’s as smooth as you can manage!
This was both messy and irritating but eventually the area looked something like this!

The paving slabs are sticky – but with the stuck on walls of my old plastic buildings fresh in my mind, it’s likely that overtime they will become unstuck. Also don’t forget they’re not going down onto a completely dust free and even surface!
I therefore will lay them out first to get an idea of how they look and then glue them down with PVA. (This is actually recommended by Metcalfe). 

The road is opened! (I wish they’d finish the roadworks on the M1 this quickly…). Looks good actually!
Now that I’m happy with the way it looks and where it is, I can expand as necessary to a larger town plan. I used tweezers to help me lift and replace the tiles. It took all day but the result is worth it.
Here is a work in progress shot. The problem with planning out the town is I’ve had to do it on quite an ad-hoc basis. It’s difficult to quite judge the size of buildings in the shop, but hopefully I’ve left room for future additions.
I’m also going to future proof the layout by not modelling heavily over the gap in the two boards. i.e. keeping roads at 90 degree angles and not continuing on complex scenery. This should theoretically allow me to one day add a 3rd board in the middle to extend the layout outwards… but this is way off in the future… 
At present I’m waiting for things to dry so more pictures coming soon!

Langstead – Episode 7: Playing Sim City: Part 1

In the last episode (Playing God) you’ll remember I took to adding some greenery to the board. Most of which was a large success – apart from a tiny flaw in which the top coat of glue being dyed by the scatter and running creating stained patches of ballast-mat. (See bellow at the top of the picture).
As discussed last week I came up with a plan to combat this…
Fortunately for me, you can purchase the ballast coloured scenic mat I’ve used in scatter form. Therefore I’ve added some of this to the offending areas, this time using a pipette to apply the glue over the top as not to discolour it. 
At the time of writing I’m waiting for this to dry. But it’s already looking much better and is helping the green area run with the curvature of the track bed.
Anyway, now the landscape is developing nicely it’s time to move on and start thinking about populating my layout with some buildings to make it look, well, a) interesting and b) real. 
If you look back at previous episodes you’ll see I already have some buildings… Some of which appear to change or move location….
Along with all my rolling stock, built up in my childhood, I also had an array of buildings, platforms and trackside paraphernalia. 
Most of these buildings come from the cheaper end of Hornby’s back catalogue spectrum and feature a mix of cheap grey plastics, paper-stuck on walls and low quality finishes. I don’t think it’s helped that they haven’t stood the test of time very well being stuck in my parents loft for so many years – the sticky paper finished walls are coming off, they’re very dirty and dusty and some have broken all together (Possibly in transit, more likely my Dad not putting them in the right box..). 
I’m not knocking Hornby’s efforts here. In fact, you can find pictures on their website where they construct quite plausible and good looking layouts using them. Mind you, they are trying to sell you them… Anyway, they appealed to me once and I’m pretty sure they’re doing a good job at appealing to kids now. Kids who want a cheap, quick addition to their layout to add interest. That was absolutely fine then, but it looks no good on my layout now.
Most of them have found their way into the bin. (I have a lot of excess platform pieces that are in good condition and looking for a good home – so please get in touch!).
It won’t shock you to find out there is a plethora of higher-end, much better looking options on the market. If you’re the die-hard serious modeller then chances are you’ll be making your building from scratch. I wouldn’t know where to begin on such a subject so let’s rule that out. 
Some companies do very convincing card kits, such as the Metcalfe example above. 
Others offer a pre built building in white, as a blank canvas. 
Now, I’ve never been much of an artist and I’m terrible with building kits. I’m sure a seasoned pro could turn out a card kit like the one above but I think I’d just create a gluey bent mess.
Thankfully, Hornby have waded back into the game with some very good looking die-cast resin structures. All the buildings from the above feature in Hornby’s ‘Skaledale’ range. And I must say I’m impressed with their looks and features. 
You have to ask yourself, am I going to get more pleasure out of making the building, or looking at the building?… Well I suppose if you’re good at making them, then the answer will be both, but as we’ve already established I’m going to be next to useless at trying to make my own kit. 
I know they’re going to look great out the box, and I am a sucker for Hornby products, so I have treated myself to some Skaledale buildings. (In fact: if you remember from the last episode, I had already purchased a couple last month). The added bonus is, unlike some of the kit or self produced buildings which might not stand the test of being moved in and out of storage regularly (as I need them to), the Skaledale buildings are fairly rugged and can be moved around easily/stored in boxes. There’s also a HUGE range to choose from (*cough* future Christmas present idea for me *cough*) and many of the range is inspired by real life buildings, so you’ll be able to pick up Gothland Station on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway or Dent Station on the Settle-Carlisle line to name but a few.
I will stress again though that if you CAN build kits well and don’t need to move them about alot then this is a much cheaper and rewarding route to take…
Here’s a sneak peak at some of my buildings. You’ll be able to tailor your town to an era or geographical location. But as I’m going with the ‘it could be anywhere and anywhen’ approach I’ve got a mismatch of different period/architectured highstreet buildings. Mind you, have you ever been down Epping High Street – it looks like this anyway!
But wait! I hear you say. There are roads and pavements too! I’ll get to that next time….

Langstead – Episode 1: A Lost Hobby & Brief

Pre Amble:
I’ve always been into trains. I wouldn’t call myself an anorak by any measure and I couldn’t tell you the names of ‘important’ locomotives… (well apart from the Flying Scotsman, but everyone knows that one) but I love travelling by train, be it Intercity, Underground or International. I also like cars, and for that matter roads but I will always feel slightly bitter about how the automobile killed, or at least damaged, British Railways. Look out of your window on any odd rail journey and you’ll see empty spaces where branch lines diverged, where goods yards used to exist or abandoned platforms at your local station. This is sad. But this is what I like about railways, the sense of a romantic history which the M11 just can’t provide.
A Lost Hobby:
When I was younger, although maybe not as young as you might think, I had a model railway. It covered my floor space and no doubt p*ssed off my parents a fair amount with the constant addition of more track and the need to go to a model shop in Chelmsford every Saturday. It was pretty great, and it was also pretty big. I did leaf through model railway literature with the long term goal of nailing it to some wood and doing it all properly but that never came around. Instead, and rather tactically, my parents got a loft conversion of sorts in the form of laying down floor boards over roof beams. The promise was, clean up my floor space of track and trains, and replace it with a table in the newly floored loft. Once the job was complete I eagerly went to assemble my new layout (now with more fresh track as there was even more floor space to play with, in the loft). Whilst I thoroughly appreciated the efforts to relocate and encourage my hobby, unfortunately said parents forgot to factor in a number of variables:
  1. There was very little height in the loft, and what height there was, was further limited by the camber of the roof. Certainly no room for a table and definitely no room for me to stand up.
  2. As this was not a proper conversion of such the loft was still susceptible to weather. Namely too hot in summer and too cold in winter.
  3. Next was the unbelievable quantity of dust.
  4. And finally there was promise of folding ladders being attached to the loft hatch. This was scrapped due to the builder claiming ‘The hatch is at a funny angle and we can’t put folding ladders in.’ What I took from that was we had got a quote from an idiot who couldn’t suss out how to problem solve.
Even with these problems I merrily went about setting up my layout in the loft, now on the newly laid floor boards. I tried to make do and enjoy the extra space but the heat, dust and fact I had to move ladders about the house to get up there was making the hobby I used to enjoy hard work. The final nail in the coffin was when I went off to university and it eventually got boxed up, presumably so my Dad could fill up the space with old CD players, empty hi-fi boxes, and naturally – lots more dust.
Spin on 5 years and Leah and I (Leah is my girlfriend, who seems to be copping quite well with the fact that her boyfriend bloody loves trains) were a bit bored and elected to drive to my old house to relieve my loft of my other childhood hobby of Lego. When we got there we discovered there literally was FAR TOO MUCH lego which had been arranged into brick type (which Leah deemed ‘unfun’) and put in FAR TOO MANY boxes. This disappointed Leah so my attention turned to my trains now all nicely boxed (I’m actually pleased at the job my Dad did at dismantling it all – it’s probably because he loves boxes) in two large wooden crates. Eventually Leah allowed me to take home 1 small oval of track and 1 train + wagons. This was excellent fun. Naturally it wasn’t enough.
The next few days and work lunch breaks were spent planning and researching folding/splitting/portable model railway board solutions. Eventually I came up with a plan.
This blog is about that plan, picking off from where I left off and building my own model railway. 

Post Amble: (More on what I’m trying to achieve).
Apart from cataloguing the construction of my model railway the secondary aims of this blog are as follows:
  • You don’t have to own acres of attic space to build a layout. Kids, this is about showing your parents that there ARE alternatives to having your layout on your bedroom floor, and parents and adults this is about showing you there IS room for a model railway no matter what space you have available to you.
  • You don’t have to be a complete locomotive number collecting anorak to enjoy a model railway. Rather luckily I already have a large quantity of rolling stock left over from my childhood. If you’re literally starting from a blank canvas, and you want to build a rural village station set in the 1930’s – brilliant. You can look up what locomotives, and railway companies existed at this time and buy accordingly. But if you’re like me, and just love trains of all ages and eras – and want huge steam trains operating next to the Eurostar – by all means this is OK too. Remember the most important part of your layout is the trains themselves! So buy ones you like, and if they are not quite historically accurate to the rest of your model… So what.
  • You don’t have to be a DIY expert. I am merely armed with Google and my own logic. If you do your research you won’t have to have a degree in woodwork or engineering to build something that (hopefully) looks good. This project isn’t about creating a model that would appear in a magazine. Those kind of models take years to perfect, and whilst I am inspired by them and appreciate their art I want something fun and usable. It’s important to remember that the people who make these absolutely brilliant layouts often have been building them their entire life. I haven’t, and this blog is for the inexperienced first time modeller, like myself.