Weathering Mineral Wagons (Again)

For the seasoned OTCM reader this video you’ve seen, so don’t be thinking we’ve been making more helpful videos.

This is for the new readers (hello Nan!) since the first exhibition who have said they would love to know how we rust wagons and have struggled to find the original post, so here it is again showing what you can do when you should be working at home and are using only one hand. No tripods here at OTCM.



Oly’s Rules

I was thinking the other day, which in itself is dangerous enough, about what constitutes to me a decent layout. All this thinking has been generated after Chris and I have been discussing at some length the ‘third generation’ of layouts to replace SQ and Chris’ current project.

Although me trying to pin myself to a single prototype is near enough impossible there is always common patterns that develop and I do not mean in terms of what attracts me to a prototype. I can go from 1990s Manchester DC lines in P4 to 1930s Argentine logging railroads in On30 in under an hour. This is more planning ideals and how I’d capture the essence of a said prototype. A sort of Oly’s rules to an exhibition layout if you like.

With all that said above the first unfortunate step is to actually get over your inability to not settle on a single prototype and actually decide. Chris unfortunately has not finalised the true vision of his ‘tri-period modelling’ dream quite yet. My final decision on a prototype is one that usually involves a bit of scope around bodging, with enough sprinkling of out of the ordinary but with the core that during that period of the year when your modelling ability and mojo disappears there is still something you can do. It’s why I couldn’t do P4 because you have to be on your game all the time, and quite simply on a wet Wednesday in November I just want to get a wagon out of a box and make it a bit dirty.

Then comes the good bit. Research. Not so much geography and history (although to some people that’s number 1) I’m talking about research into what you want. Not 893 photos of class 20s in the Derby area either. You need to create a digital (or physical if you are that way inclined) scrapbook of the colours and textures you require. This is when you need to look at every train photo you’ve ever looked at again but forget the train in it. You need to understand the exact colour of the track, the exact colour of that embankment. There are 365 days in a year and 4 seasons, its worth deciding what section you want to convey, but you can boil it down to more than that by simply asking yourself ‘what feelings do I want to convey to the person who is looking at it?’

When you build a layout you become so wrapped up in it it’s no longer fresh so it’s always good to think of what a complete stranger would think when they saw it and how you want them to react. When I built SQ I wanted it to look like you would not want to visit it. I wanted the onlooker to pull their jacket a bit tighter. So I knew it couldn’t be a summer in the 1930s. It had to feel like rain and industrial strife. Regardless of a prototype it had to look what it was. A loco and a train is not anywhere near enough to give a sense of setting and place. We cannot rely on them to carry the scene on their own. No matter how amazing the detailing and weathering. 

Now my favourite rule, no track should be straight with the baseboard edge. How many layouts do you know where the curve is only there because it has to be and is merely a unfortunate requirement to get the track back to being straight? I know a few. Humans have a tendency to make things straight, we don’t lay the table at Christmas with wonky cutlery or iron a work shirt with creases into it, or build round sheds. We like straight. However at the same time the most beautiful objects on earth are rarely straight. A good looking car is not one made of right angles. You may be constrained to keep your board square edged but your track shouldn’t be. Whatever plan you’ve drawn, draw it again so nothing runs straight with the baseboard edge, you’ll like it a lot more.

SQ as is


SQ straight as could be

That leads me nicely to Kevin Lane’s (one of Flickr’s leading railway pornographers and all copyright to Kevin) photo of a YEC 0-4-0 during work at Pilkington glass.

The original is here

The entire scene on your layout is probably 1 X 1, but the detail and sense of place it gives you is beyond amazing. Classic trains magazine do a great photo every issue completely explaining all the background details and it’s worth looking at this one in more detail.

Firstly the train’s orientation to its world around it is key to my point above. Nothing about that loco is straight to it’s surroundings. Look at how the gate angles across the track, nothing straight and parallel. (10)

Then there is the detail. So much it’s almost painful to take it in. Look at the handmade bench (5), the tramway track and the differing ground colours (9). It might be black and white but it screams weathering and colour. Look how the more modern building sits (again not straight) behind the older building and wall (2). The signage (6). The lampost is also lovely (1).  The way the ground transitions also is important for deciding on what materials you are going to use (3 and 4). Detail that is easily missed is the wire runs and change in material on the gate house (8 and 7). Also look at the general crap under the wall. There is lot to take in and model and that’s just in 1 X 1. Also a lot of it is not going to cost a fortune to model, it can be bodged with the materials you would of brought for the main modelling of the building.

Then we get to the signal (Obviously 11 but I was having fun). The signal is in dangerous territory. It’s the second thing we see when we look after the locomotive. Bob Fallowfield over on makes a good point about never modelling ‘the weird and wonderful’. To me what that means is balancing the desire to model something against what you are trying to achieve by the overall scene.

I’m assuming you are using the photo at Pilkington because you want it’s ‘vibe’ and its part of your scrapbook rather than because you are modelling an exacting prototype, if you are then you are going to model it. However if your freelancing a bit more than the thought process would be ‘is that going to jar against my scene?’ rather than ‘that is amazing I need that on my layout’. If someone walks up to your layout an item like that signal could ruin the scenes entire impact because the eye is simply drawn to it and then unable to forget it. Again this is when you can get your layout stranger and say ‘what do you think?’ and they say ‘whats that funny white thing?’ it probably falls under that ‘Weird and Wonderful’ and should be scrapped.

Presentation is an important thing to anyone, you don’t go to an interview looking like you’ve slept behind the bins. Nor should you show off your hard work on an ironing board with lighting made from white PVC guttering.

There has been enough written about presentation beyond the confines of this blog, but it doesn’t have to be hard. If it was I wouldn’t do it. If you can build a baseboard you can present your layout nicely. It just takes thought and a conscious decision to make it part of the process.

Finally you need to tread a fine a line between capability and learning. Modelling something with code 100 track when you know deep down you are ready to start making copper clad points is never going to lead you to modelling nirvana.  Same if you pick a subject or style that you constantly struggle to achieve, say for instance if everything has to be made from a kit. Your goal should ultimately to be a learning curve mixed with satisfaction.

Some, or most of it in fact, probably makes no sense. However I hope that one of you somewhere has found all that useful.



Oly’s Uckfield

Talking about yourself in the third person is always a sign of either insanity or a personality complex. Just look at Donald Trump.

But after Chris’ nice review and other blogs mentioning SQ’s debut I thought I should give you my spin. A lot of people outside of the hobby have no real idea what ‘doing a show’ actually means and people in the hobby who have never exhibited don’t really grasp how it works either. I know I certainly didn’t.

If your lucky enough to build something someone else wants at a show they send you an invite and ask how much ‘you cost’ this is when you tell an exhibition manager if you need a van, a hotel and how much fuel you are likely to burn while you transport your layout the breadth of the country.

If all is amenable you get to play trains all weekend for the public while doing your hobby. It’s a magic aspect of the hobby and why I do what I do. What other hobby could you do where you get to do what you love, talk to the public about it, spend time with your mates and like minded people and get your expenses back?

Does that mean it’s stress free? Errr no. I’ll admit I was a stressing building up to the show. I probably fell into that trap briefly where I forgot there was a world outside of baby trains. Stressing out over a model railway not working when say I could be living in Syria seems a bit small fry. However you are putting on a display for people paying hard cash, there is an unwritten contract there and Uckfield is not just any show, it’s the show for finescale filth. The headliners were a who’s who of modelling mastery, so SQ and me had a certain level to be at.

So in the week previous when the layout decided to work for Uckfield in the same way Apollo 13 worked for moon landings I was somewhat dismayed that months of no patience and bodging had somehow not produced a perfect layout.

I’m always surprised at how I expect something I’ve not put 100% into doesn’t end up being 100%, it’s definitely a personality trait that has left Chris exasperated over the years and hopefully as skill improves and I mature (ED – Easy now) will disappear.

I was convinced in filling up the car on the Friday that if it didn’t work Chris and I could hopefully chat enough bollocks that people wouldn’t realise nothing had moved. I had a little prayer to the model train gods and luckily they smiled upon SQ. That or the shed environment is so toxic trains cannot work in such conditions. Probably a mixture of both. 

I did have to almost laugh hysterically when a member of the public commented on how well it run. I’m not lying in anyway if I said the layout had worked, without hand of God interaction, for more than 6 minutes all told in the 16 months before the show. However having been on the road with Portchullin for years now it would seem alien to me to have a level of confidence in a layout that it’ll work at opening. Last minute panic and issues has been part of parcel of life on the road for us, so thanks Mark for the baptism of fire (ED – I think that’s 6-2 to OTCM now Mark)

I need more traction, we didn’t have enough and all those projects I put in the drawer will be lucky enough to come back out and be finished. I’ve learnt I need to get a test regime going for new and used models and not assume they work before dicking around with them, a lot of stuff should of been working that wasn’t.

That aside Chris’ wagons were a work of art, the quick win presentation looked alright (even if the stickers I ordered never turned up) Chris’ class 14 burning out was only ruined by me being the sole witness as it looked amazingly prototypical. Let’s all hope it’s an easy fix. Although I won one pissed on eBay since the show, so we now have two 14s for 4 feet. Not excessive at all.

As everybody has said ‘Surrey Arms’ and Andy’s ‘Tarring Neville’ were flipping awesome. Andy’s taking the Cameo concept and already blowing it out the water, giving me some ideas of ‘breaking the fourth wall’ with the cameo concept.

What I’ve always loved about Uckfield is the amount of straight up families with no previous experience or knowledge it brings in. This is a big deal for us and I personally love engaging with the next generation, I’d love to do more on that, like present at schools or something on creative hobbies but no idea how, for another day perhaps.

There also seemed to be some confusion around whether Chris and I are actually a couple, but I can assure you no matter how many times we touch each other’s arses or refer to ourselves in the plural were more Morecambe and Wise than anything else.

Anyway with SQ packed away at home I can concentrate on modelling non NCB related hardware with Mark’s class 27 first up for sorting.


Chris and I planning the next layout
How it should of looked at Uckfield…

Thank you for the continued readership we’ve just smashed the 20k visitors number for this year, which is insane considering three years ago it was hovering around 6, not 6k, 6 people.


Uckfield 2017: A Postscript 

Well that’s the 2017 Uckfield show done and dusted, and Six Quarters is now established on the exhibition circuit, having made its debut over the weekend.

Overall, things went miles better than we had expected them too, the layout not only worked, which according to Oly was a minor miracle, but actually worked bloody well, and was generally very well received by the visiting public and other exhibitors! Even the mayor seemed to like it…

Aside from a few minor things for us to sort out, the only real improvements we have taken away from the show as being required are some more locos for a bit of extra variety. So it can’t be all bad. Oly is even going to sleep tonight for the first time in 4 months now he’s not worrying constantly.

We just wanted to say a massive thanks to Adrian for organising another excellent show, to all the other exhibitors and to the public for all the kind comments and great feedback over the show, and finally to all of Uckfield club for being great hosts over the weekend, it’s always nice to visit a show where the club go out their way to make it obvious they appreciate you attending and that you shouldn’t be greatful for the invite.

Here are a few photos to remember a weekend mainly dominated by dirty bleakness and rusty coal wagons.

A few other shows have taken details so hopefully we will be out on the road again in the not too distant future.


Sound System 1st Test

It’s less than a week until Uckfield and one of my promises to myself was the layout would have ambient sound because at least then something would work when all the wires fall out and the bodges became obvious.

It’s taken until this weekend for my mate, ‘Uncle Dom’, to get all the bits to me (he’s an electrical shop owner, so the wait was worth the mates rates)

As well as showing my avid shed assistants it gives an idea of what the little cubes can do when let loose. It’s massively over the top but it gives an indication of future applications with DCC sound.

Hopefully I’ll see loads of you at Uckfield, I’ll be the one having a panic attack in the corner of the green room while Chris mops my brow with cold water.