Sunday, 15 April 2018

Paint and Water

It's starting to come together. At this point it really is a case of working on several items at once. The Mill needs painting but also needs to blend into the wall beneath it. The wall beneath it needs painting but it needs to blend into the bottom of the Mill Race. This morning's first job was, therefore, to fill in the 'floor' of the mill race while listening to the Chinese GP. After that it was a case of making sure there were no gaps at the edge. I alternated between filler and Deluxe Materials Super Phatic glue which is good at bridging holes.

Once the base was in and reasonably dry I painted the floor with a dark brown/black/green colour and then set to painting the walls. This was again a mixture of browns and greens but applied with a sponge and a finger. Effectively it was dry brushing but with a sponge and where I put the paint on too thick I just used a damp finger to spread it the paint out a bit. When it came to the wall under the Mill I also used the sponge on the Mill itself to blend it all in.

There is still the need for some washes of reds, greens and browns but generally it's best to not overdo it, in my opinion, by trying to cover every stone.

The next task is going to be to add the water into the race. This is going to be a serious exercise as there is a lot to fill but hopefully the four bottles of Deluxe Materials Aqua Magic will suffice otherwise I'll be buying 4 more!

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Mill cladding

Don't you love wet bank holidays when you are just forced into spending your time modelling. I had planned to get into the garden over Easter but as that would require waders due to the rainfall we had yesterday...

A couple of shots that show progress. The mill is being slowing clad in embossed stone from South Eastern Finecast. The Wills sheets I had planned to use had stone work that was just too large. This is about the right size. I'd not come across them before but I ordered a sheet more in hope than expectation and it turned out to be what I wanted.

In the photos below you can see the mill in place with the mill wheel housing both separate and in place. There is a window in the wall of the mill housing through which you can presumably see the mill wheel going round. I was thinking how to achieve this when there was an article by Geoff Helliwell in this month's Railway Modeller concerning N20 motors. These are small motors complete with gears so I bought a 6V 30 rpm motor and if I run it at 1.5 volts it turns suitably slowly. I'm going to mount it on the embankment and make the mill wheel housing slightly less permanent than the mill building itself in case of future maintenance. The wheel is the Wills wheel.

Friday, 30 March 2018


Another flurry of activity has taken place. With the Mill building in prototype form it meant the groundwork could be finished off. There were a very messy few evenings where I carved and shaped the polystyrene and then I used up a coupe of tubes of border adhesive and laid down some strips of J Cloth. As that was drying I mixed up some polyfilla, added some brown pain (not enough) and was fairly liberal with the gloopy mix to eliminate a few areas that were still too flat. IT was then left to dry and 48 hours later some of it is still damp but that's fine. The overall effect is pleasing. If I did it a second time I'd blend the right hand side into the backscene better but too late now and it's amazing what you can hide with trees and bushes!

Here's an overall view of how it looks. The top fascia has been mounted at the back just to keep it out of the way. That is not the usual position!

Monday, 19 March 2018

The Mill

Snow day! The Beast from the East II meant I gave myself a day off from chores or driving anywhere and focused on building the mill. I'd recently filled in the scenic area with polystyrene - more use of Celutex having been abandoned due to having fibreglass in it which isn't good for anyone, especially the cat. Now it was time to tackle the mill.

There are many problems about the mill, not least not having any decent plans or pictures. I've trawled all my books, the internet, friends archives and the majority of pictures are of the mill in later life. The best picture was from a Railway magazine but even that shows the mill in a fairly abandoned state.

What I have discovered is that it is essentially L shaped with two extensions, one of which goes over the mill race and houses the mill wheel. It's embedded into the hillside and the judging by the windows and doors, the read portion (which must be the living accommodation) must be higher inside than the working portion at the front. Overall it appears to have 4 different roof angles and is a mixture of stonework, timber cladding, rendering and timber framed. Oh and did I mention no plans or drawings. I know I could go up to Welshpool and do a site visit and ask to measure the actual building but I'm not that sort of modeller.

It was going to be trial and error so I started with a cereal packet mock up but that was just not right, I'd clearly got the elevations wrong. Still, it gave me the direction to move in with shallower roofs and reduced depth. I found a picture of the mill with a train going by so that helped to estimate the height. I then progressed to the second mock up but this time out of mounting board.

I started with the base and just built up the sides. After I had done the first left corner I realised it was still too small so I raised it all by 10mm just by putting a second, larger, piece on the existing wall. There's nothing to say what is right or wrong so I just progressed round the building adding extension pieces and walls as I thought it looked right.

I still have the extensions over the mill race and to the right of the building to do but they should come quite quickly now that the basic shell is there. What will happen next is that this will move from mock-up to the actual building by just being clad in different Wills sheets. I'm coming to the conclusion that the rendering was potentially a later addition so I will mainly use the same stone as I used for the mill race walls along with timber cladding. There is just a small amount of timber framing on the front face, most of it is on the right hand side.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

A backscene at last

It's been a long time coming. Thoughts of how to create the backscene have been at the back of my mind since the start of the layout. I thought I had got enough depth to model the embankment behind the layout as the land rises quite steeply behind the mill. It turns out I don't have anywhere near enough space to model the rise.

Several options came to mind:

  1. I toyed with the idea of extending out the back of the layout but that would have had to be supported somehow over the fiddle yard and would have had complications for fitting the layout into the car.
  2. I thought about painting my own backscene. There is an excellent book on doing this, imaginatively titled "Creating a Backscene" and over on "Nick's Workshop Mutterings" you can see this being put into effect. I knew if I went down this route I'd still be talking about doing it in a year's time.
  3. Cheat.
Cheating seemed to be the best option. There is a track that runs from the back of the mill down to where the water tower should be. I figured that I could make the ground rise behind that, as it does in real life, but plant a significant number of trees along the rear edge of the track that the back of the layout was obscured. The next task was to find a backscene. Eventually I settled on the Old Mill Town Pack B from id Backscenes. Howard Scenic Supplies quickly delivered so I decided the best mix and went to stick it on.

Bit of a disaster. There are two choices, self adhesive or not self adhesive. I chose the former out of some misguided idea that it would be easier. If you have a flat backscene that is not already on the layout then it must be fantastic but working on an already installed backscene working round some scenery was impossible. It's actually too sticky. It's either on or off and you cannot pull it back off to reposition. I ripped it all off in disgust and ordered the non sticky one.

Above is the result of applying the non self adhesive version with border adhesive. There is one slight crease over on the left hand side and the join between the two pieces goes right down through the buildings on the right but that will be hard to see as it is right behind the mill. There is work to do to blend in the sides where the embankment goes through the hillside!

It has raised another possibility, however. The existing scenery formation and the backscene do seem to blend reasonably well and I am toying with the idea of not using trees to hide the join but to accept the way it looks now and blend it in. It will mean losing any hillside behind the mill but looks like it will be a better compromise than the trees. A good friend is going to today supply me some polystyrene to fill in the remaining gap. Hopefully by the end of Christmas this will be in and a final decision can be made. It's going to be a compromise anyway so it's simply a case of determining the best compromise.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Now it runs

Well it ran for a while, all of probably 10 minutes before the gremlins started appearing. On the right hand bend trains were slowing far more than the tightness of the curve should have caused. A quick check of the cables underneath and one of them was getting warm, a sure sign of overloading. I had thought this might happen so wasn't particularly surprised. I decided I need to increase from 3.5mm plugs to 6.25mm plugs. When I took the 3.5mm plastic plugs off, nearly all of them had cracked. The just weren't up to it. It could have been my soldering of them but I'm fairly proficient at that so probably not the cause for all of them. Suffice to say we now have metal connectors and plugs and it all works fine. I took advantage of dismantling it all to trim some excess timber and to tidy the wiring.

Time to progress the scenery. I'd read a discussion online about the use of Celotex as an alternative to polystyrene. I'd also seen a discussion about whether it contained fibreglass or not and one poster assured everyone that if you bought the proper branded Celotex then it did not contain fibreglass. I can report he was wrong. Mine says Celotex on the outside and fingers tell me it contains fibreglass.

It may or may not be clear but I've put in the stone wall at the back of the mill race and glued down and carved the first piece of Celotex. I'm struggling to know what to do about the backscene. In my minds eye I saw the embankment behind the mill rising steeply up to the road and out of sight. The reality is that the mill is quite large - it's the white cutout on the right and the layout needs to be another 12 inches deep to get a good embankment. There are a variety of subterfuges I can use but nearly all backscenes portray an impression into he distance, the exact opposite of what I need to do here. Something to think about as I build up the contours.

As a separate exercise I've rejuvenated my website at I'll be adding to that as and when I feel the muse!

Sunday, 3 September 2017

It runs

The electrics got completed this morning and as I type this up there is a train running round in the background. I had to fettle one piece of track at a join but otherwise it all worked first time.

So how have I wired it up? Firstly, this is DC and not DCC. I've experimented with DCC but it is more than is needed for this type of layout. I want automation but I believe I can do it in a simpler manner.

Having used a cheap PWM controller off ebay and using LED strips for the lighting it means all I need is 12V DC. The best way to provide that is with off the shelf supplies of the sort that come with all sorts of electrical kit. I'm temporarily using a couple that powered a BT router. Eventually there will be 3 of these powering the layout:
  1. The overhead lights will have their own supply. They don't take anywhere near 2 Amps but it seems to be wise to keep this separate.
  2. The track will have it's own supply.
  3. The servos will also have their own supply. These aren't fitted yet but reading the internet you can find plenty of reports of interference so, again, keeping it separate is a sensible precaution.
I've ordered 4 supplies off ebay. I suspect they are coming from China but that's fine. They will be double insulated and acceptable to exhibition electrician approvers who seem to be often nervous of anything home grown. I've noticed that when they see off the shelf kit they sign it off because there's nothing for them to check. I like having a spare available, hence the 4th supply. By having 4 identical supplies they have identical connectors so are all interchangeable.

The layout is on 4 boards. The fiddle yard has most of the wiring so that's where power goes in and where the track feed comes from. I wanted robustness yet flexible connections between the boards. In the end I settled on 3.5mm jack sockets on each board and purchased some 1m cables ready made. They are a very low price on the internet. Again, I need 3 cables so I bought 4, all interchangeable and a spare.

I was initially concerned that the cables would not carry the track current but with modern motors it is so low I am not seeing any obvious problems, no drops in speed except where the track is tight at the bends and that is down to friction and not power distribution. I shall leave it running a long time and see what gets warm.

The sockets are all bolted into aluminium brackets. I had some long runs of aluminium angle and it took all of 30 minutes to cut and drill the brackets.

At some point in the future I'll wire up the servos but for now I am going to progress the scenery.

Paint and Water

It's starting to come together. At this point it really is a case of working on several items at once. The Mill needs painting but also ...