Friday, March 27, 2020

How I extended the platform at Bulkeley with moulded concrete

Having remodelled the track layout at Bulkeley Station (see How I changed the track plan at Bulkeley), I found the new arrangement allowed me to extend the island platform by the length of an LGB R3 point.

The original platform had been cast in sections using a wooden mould and stone slips for texture (see How I cast a curved platform in concrete).

Having just cast some sheep loads for a couple of wagons in plaster with a PlayDoh mould (see How I cast plaster sheep loads), I thought I'd experiment with Plasticine to create a stonework mould for the new bit of platform.

The first thing in needed was a decent supply of plasticine. I duly ordered three reasonably priced half kilo blocks from eBay. I think they were probably cheaper than normal owing to their lurid colour!

Once they arrived, I then rolled out a sausage around 2.5cm in diameter, and then squashed it flat on an old bathroom tile. I'd measured the required height of the platform to be 3cm so felt the sausage would flatten down to about this width.

NOTE: I placed the blocks of plasticine in from of a fan heater to soften them before making the sausages.

I then cut various widths and lengths of stone blocks into the ends of softwood offcuts to act as stamps.

These were then pressed into the plasticine to represent irregular dressed stonework.

The process was repeated until I had sufficient pieces of plasticine to stretch the length of both sides of the platform. The site was brushed clean and the plasticine pieces were laid out, using blobs of plasticine to hold them in place.

A 3:1 mix of sand and cement was then made, ......

.......... slowly adding water until it had the consistency of thick cream. This was then trowelled into the mould.

I had decided to incorporate some twin core wire so I could later add lighting to the platform (see How I created some gas lights for my platforms - pending).

The surface was left slightly uneven as the irregular edges of the mould made smoothing off difficult. From experience, I know these sorts of inconsistencies can be rectified later ( see below).

I left the concrete for two  days to set to its 'green' state; ie not fully hardened. I then carefully removed the sides of the mould by peeling them away from the concrete, starting with the topmost edges.

I then smoothed off the top surface of the concrete by scraping the surface with the edge of the trowel.

With a flat-bladed screwdriver, I then carved mortar courses in the surface of the platform.

To mirror the existing platform finish, I carved stones only at the edge of the platform.

The new extension was then left for a couple more days to fully harden off.

The stonework edges were the painted with a mix of red and brown cement dyes to simulate the red sandstone of the locality.

I left the centre of the platform concrete coloured. I did speculate on painting it with black concrete dye to represent bitumen, but felt the impecunious PLR would have gone for a cheaper option!

I am quite pleased with the outcome. The main difficulty seems to be keeping the plasticine from bowing. I tried to ensure there was a consistent curve on both sides before pouring in the concrete, but there were a couple of places I missed. Because the mortar courses are quite deep, I was able to slice off the protrusions with the trowel when tidying up the platform surface. I need to tidy up the edge where the old joins the new, but will probably do this with a squidge of concrete applied with the trowel and then textured with the blade of the screwdriver when green.

It has occurred to me that I could use the same technique to create dry stone walling. The plasticine was a bit gritty, but a quick wash in warm soapy water was enough to get rid of most of it before the plasticine was pummelled back into a couple of blobs, ready for the next project.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

How I cast a sheep load in plaster for a wagon

Having recently constructed an open topped cattle wagon from an IP Engineering kit and repainted a secondhand Tralee & Dingle open topped cattle wagon in PLR livery, I decided to give them both sheep loads. I bought six sheep from Motley Miniatures for £20 and six 3D printed sheep from DesignPrintScan3D for £21 and duly loaded them into the wagons, using the bristles from a yard broom as bedding straw. To me, they looked acceptable, however ........

..... someone more knowledgeable of these things than me, pointed-out that in reality, when sheep were loaded into wagons they were crammed in tightly to help ensure that none could fall over and get trampled on. So, I was faced with a problem. I worked-out that I would need at least 20 sheep per wagon to fill them - which would cost around £120 in total. Considering the wagons only cost around £50 for the pair, this seemed somewhat extravagant to my penny-pinching mentality. So, how could I fill them more cost effectively?

In the light of information which has been presented to me, I have had to remove the rest of this blog post. I am in the process of rewriting it - please come back later

Progress Report 80

The weather has been appalling since my last Progress Report, but despite three named storms passing through, I did manage to finish off the landscaping at Bulkeley. The weather has given me a good reason to spend a fair bit of time in the workshop and so I have been able to tick off a few items on my extended to do list - I've eventually gotten around to constructing an IP Engineering open cattle truck kit which has been sitting in my Project Box for at least five years (maybe longer), and I completed the construction of some PLR logoed station benches which I had laser cut two years ago. Now the recently painted seated figures have somewhere to sit! I also finished off the coal cart and harnessed a horse to pull it. I believe that kit is at least four years old!

So, plenty to report, even though it is still very much winter time!


Raised bed at Bulkeley

 After changing the track layout at Bulkeley to add another siding at the rear of the station (see How I changed the track layout at Bulkeley), the siding at the front of the layout was quite precariously at the very edge of the raised bed, which meant there was little or no room for any additional detailing. I therefore decided to widen the raised bed, which entailed erecting a new retaining wall ......

..... and cladding it in sandstone blocks (see How I widened the raised bed at Bulkeley)

This provided plenty of additional space to extend the siding and put in some additional detailing. I intend to re-instate the loading bank which served the original siding for the transshipment of soft fruit from the local nurseries (see How I cast a loading bank in concrete).

After a couple of weeks (mainly due to wet weather), I cast a new trackbed for the siding, so it could be moved to align more neatly with the mainline. I used a concrete mix of one part cement to three parts sand and three parts gravel.

Once this had set, I realigned and extended the siding ......

...... fixing the track in place with screws and rawlplugs. The siding was then ballasted using my usual mix of three parts horticultural potting grit to one part cement, applied dry ....

.... and then brushed into place with an old paintbrush.
 The ballast was then doused in water using a watering can with a fine rose.

NOTE: I positioned the loading bank loosely to guide the laying of the ballast. It will be fixed into place more permanently when the ballast has dried.

Rolling stock

IP Engineering open cattle truck

For several years, I have had an IP Engineering kit for an open topped cattle truck sitting on the shelf. After buying a Tralee and Dingle open-topped cattle truck and some sheep at the Llanfair Show last autumn, I decided the time had come for the kit to be assembled (see How I constructed an IP Engineering open cattle truck).

Whilst it was in the paintshop, the Tralee and Dingle wagon was also repainted in PLR goods stock colours (Halford's grey primer with black metal work and underframes)

The two wagons have now entered service as sheep wagons. They have been given loads of 3D printed and resin cast sheep, but I am not satisfied with them (see below)

Tralee & Dingle cattle truck

As indicated above, the was a bargain, impulse buy at the Llanfair Show last year. It was originally 32mm gauge and the stall-holder felt it was therefore 10mm scale, hence he was offering it at a bargain price. I regauged it to 45mm with Bachmann 24.5mm diameter wheels. It certainly seemed to partially eclipse one of my Welshpool style wagons, but consultation with scale drawings for the T&D prototypes shows it it spot-on for 16mm scale.

I am not sure of its origins but I assume, given the quality of its finish and its whitemetal fittings, that it was constructed from a kit. As indicated above, it has been repainted in PLR good livery, given some light weathering and fitted with my wire LGB compatible hook and loop couplings.

Sheep loads

As indicated above, I bought six resin cast sheep at Llanfair from Motley Miniatures. I also bought another half dozen 3D printed sheep from DesignScanPrint3D.

These were painted and duly loaded into the two wagons.

However, it was quite rightly pointed out to me that, in reality, when sheep were transported by train, they were tightly bunched together to help prevent them from falling over and getting crushed by their compatriots. This created a financially inspired dilemma for me. I calculated that, to fill each wagon with sheep would cost in excess of £90 per wagon. Considering the two wagons cost me only £55 in total, spending nearly £200 on filling them seemed somewhat excessive.

My first solution was to create a mould in PlayDoh using the backs of the sheep I'd purchased to create impressions. However, the resulting plaster cast was not entirely successful.

So, I experimented a little more. Eventually, I came up with an arrangement and approach which was somewhat more successful (see How I cast some sheep loads in plaster  - pending)

In the meantime, a fellow modeller kindly offered to 3D print me some clusters of sheep. I needed to send him 50 photos of the tightly clustered sheep taken from a range of different angles and heights. He then stitched these photos together to form a 3D image.

From this image, he was able to print three copies ....

....which were then painted and slotted into the wagon, together with a couple of the original sheep.

I think the 3D printed sheep load looks superior, but I was interested to see what I could achieve by low-tech means.


Platform benches

A couple of years ago I came across a post on the Garden Railway Trading Group's Facebook page offering to laser cut station benches to any design for a very modest fee.

I created a PLR monogram and sent off for a dozen. After painting and varnishing the parts, I made up a couple of seats and then promptly forgot about the rest.

After painting 50 figures recently, (see Progress Report 78 and Progress Report 80) I realised I needed somewhere for the seated figures to sit, and so dusted off the seat kits and assembled the remaining ten seats and glued passengers to most of them.

These have now been stored in a two-tier container ready for deployment during operating sessions.

Coal cart

Another project which had been languishing on the shelf was a horse drawn coal cart built from a Hobby's 'kit'.

I had largely finished it but it needed final assembly and some light weathering.

This was duly done and a few details such as the driver and coal sacks were added.

A few more details need to be added: the lettering on the nameboards and a bucket and nosebag for the horse's refreshment. See How I constructed a horse drawn coal cart for more information.

Horse harness

There were no details as to how the horse should be harnessed and so I set about doing some background research. Fortunately, Hobby's provide a well detailed plan and so after purchasing this, I tracked down a suitable horse model from Schleich ......

..... and set about making a harness for it.

For more information see How I harnessed a horse to pull my coal cart.



Although I finished the workshop last Autumn (see How I constructed my workshop), I have steadily been organising and reorganising the way stuff is stored inside it ever since - see Progress Report 78 and Progress Report 79.

The most recent innovation has been to erect a wide shelf under the workbench, ......

........ buying a couple of large plastic storage containers to store large tools and large offcuts of wood and to place the smaller storage containers holding things needed for running sessions (ie figures, station detailing bits and loco transmitters) near the door.

The weather is beginning to improve and spring is in the air. I am beginning to scan the weather forecasts for two successive days of decent dry weather when I might be able to set up the railway for the coming season and have a decent full operating session. After all, I now have a couple more goods wagons waiting to enter service and some new trackwork to test.