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Sir Madog

The Beginnings of a Desktop Layout

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Sir Madog

Thanks for the kudos, folks.

 

S to choosing the title of my little feature, I do think that my modeling skills qualify me to be just that - mediocre. But that really does not bug me at all. I am quite happy with what I am doing. Accepting my limitations has helped me to turn out better models, just by looking for techniques and materials I can handle.

 

I am a nut when it comes to soldering, so I use the simple Kato system where I don´t have to solder feeder wires to the track. My knowledge of electrics is limited to putting a plug into an outlet - Kato (or Tomix) suits me fine. Laying flex track - horror! So I use Kato´s Unitrack... That list is a mile long :)

 

The only thing that I regret is that I will not be able to assemble one of those World Craft kits, as I dearly wish to have their C57. So the Tomix loco will have to do - sigh!

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The_Ghan

Hey Madog,

 

Flex track can be difficult.  I find it best for sweeping bends and "almost straight" curves, the kind you see in the Australian outback, for example.  If you're trying to use flex for long straights you can't do it without a guide and I use a stainless steel straight edge 1m long.  Even then, when I think I've got it dead straight, I run a 10-11 car consist over it and can usually pick out one or two little spots that need fixing.  This is why I screw and glue my flex: screw, test, adjust, then, after a week or two, glue.

 

As to soldering, I'm the kind of guy who just jumps in and sorts it out.  If you've had a tough time of it chances are you need to do this: heat the parts to be soldered with the iron and apply the solder to the parts, not the iron.  Don't use the iron to "paint solder" onto things, it just won't work.  "Tin" your wires before soldering (this is the process of heating the stripped wire and applying a small amount of solder to fill the voids between the strands and coat the strands).

 

If you've been working with flex chances are you'll have a handful of offcuts.  Try this for practice:

  • Use a clamp or pair of pliers to hold a piece of track on its side, so that the outside of a rail is facing you;
  • Use another clamp or alligator clip to hold a feeder wire against the outside of the rail, in the grooved section;
  • Set your iron to about 300 degrees and place it on the top (running surface) of the rail, just above the end feeder wire;
  • After 3-5s apply the solder to the rail, just past the end of the feeder wire, and when it melts drag it back over the feeder wire.

 

The result should be a perfect joint between the feeder wire and the outside of the track.  I've done about 100 joints over the last month.  Most didn't even need tidying up.

 

There is too much fun to be had with World Craft kits and the like.  You're model building skills demonstrated on this project tell me you'd be good at doing these kits and other similar things.  Make sure you've got a magnifying glass on a stand, plenty of light and just go for it man.

 

Good luck!

 

Cheers

 

The_Ghan

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Sir Madog

The_Ghan,

 

It is not laying straight flex track, or even gentle curves, that gives me the creeps - it is joining two pieces of flex track in a curve. You have to butt-solder the rails before bending them to avoid getting kinks and that´s soldering again!

 

Being able to assemble a World Craft kit will also remain a dream of mine. After two minor strokes my hands are just not steady enough any more. I hate to spend those 250 € on a kit and never be able to finish it - not talking about painting it without an airbrush. So I will just have to continue to dream about this beauty:

 

10124348b.jpg

 

Accept your limitations!

 

Smile!

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cteno4

BTW, is there a reason the JRM page title shows up in my browser as "First Look at Kato's New Unitram Track"?

 

 

whoops, sorry bout that it was an old title stuck in the template page. fixed, thanks ken

 

jeff

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keitaro

these modules are OMG WTF BBQ. Makes me want to make modules even if they will be "mediocre" in comparison to yours.

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Sir Madog

Gosh, you guys make me blush!

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The_Ghan

Oh yeah keitaro,

 

Madog then goes on to say he's had two strokes ... and he builds modules like that?  fffffffar out! 

 

Madog, I get your point.  The models DO need a very steady hand.  It would be a shame not to realise this dream of yours.  I hope you can find a local friend or someone to give you a hand with it.  As my father would say, "I didn't have three sons for nothing!".

 

Good luck mate.  You are an inspiration!

 

Cheers

 

The_Ghan

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Sir Madog

Well, my son thought I was out of the world with my hobby - until he has started to build landscapes for his war hammer figures. Now he has a little more respect for what I am doing and lets me use his hot wire cutter :)

 

I am glad you folks like what I am doing - makes me a little proud of it.

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Martijn Meerts

Madog, not being great at soldering, or not using flex track, etc. doesn't really make one a mediocre modeler. It's the end result that counts, not how it was built, or with which materials it's built.

 

And your end results are excellent :)

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Mudkip Orange

Yeah, seriously dude.

 

I'm a flextrack kinda guy, but I'd switch to Kato overnight if I thought I could pull of scenery like you've done.

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Sir Madog

Come on, guys - making that scenery is dead simple. All you need to do is roughly shape the Styrofoam to get the contours you want, paint it with a dark brown acrylic paint, cover it with a thick layer of white glue and "plant " WS Clump Foliage on it.

 

Adding scenery to those mini-modules is much easier than to "scenic" a much bigger layout.

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cteno4

Sir Madog makes a good point. good scenery is not really ultra difficult, it just takes some practice and experimenting to find what works best for you and fits the bill for the scene.

 

smaller modules like this is also a big help as it lets you focus your activities to a small section. big scenery sections can be really daunting till you are experienced at doing it. small sections lets you experiment with just a couple kinds of techniques at a time and then start working on blending them and assembling a larger scene piece by piece.

 

its one of those things you just have dive in and play with.

 

jeff

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disturbman

Sure but that doesn't change the fact that Ulrich is not a mediocre modeler. Even with a limited scopes and the lack of big technical challenges his modules looks really good. And for me, that's the most important. I've seen layouts look worse than that and for me modeling is about scenery, not about making the nicest bench or electronics ever.

 

That's a different sets of skills.

 

Personally, I'm not sure I could make such small modules look as good as he did.

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cteno4

give it a try, you might really surprise yourself!!!

 

a lot of model scenery is when to do detail and when not to. doing little modules lets you learn this quickly with a minimum of work (or wasted materials!)

 

Its also a lot of what you can get away with by tricking the mind's eye of the viewer. again little modules let you practice on this and even try doing the same scene two different ways to compare and contrast easily! i have a bunch of cardboard scraps laying around the office with little fiddles that i would just test on a small area to see what the idea might do with the mind's eye.

 

scenery is one of those things that folks tend to get to after doing a lot of work getting a layout together (even a small one) and they tend to get both overwhelmed and impatient as its the last big step to getting the layout really 'done' and get really frustrated and demoralized. again playing early on with some modules like this or even little scenery tests really helps when it becomes time to do the big scenery sections. helps to perhaps figure out how to phase the scenery but doing the big simple stuff first that do not require a lot of detail and knowing the areas that you will then need to come back to later and do the little higher detail bits to pop things that count. these you can knock off one at a time later while having some big scenery up so its not all bare wood and track! this then gives something you can fiddle on an evening at a time making the layout get nicer and nicer and you always get nice little bits of satisfaction from a few hours work! also lets you hone your skills and get better and better which is also really satisfying instead of getting frustrated with it.

 

ok yoda mode off...

 

cheers

 

jeff

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Sir Madog

disturbman - truer words have never been spoken. For me, building a layout is a lot more about scenery than fancy track work or electrics/electronics. Quite too often, scenery is viewed as something to fill the space between tracks. The minimalistic approach when building those mini-modules lets you focus on scenery, as the system allows only for a simple track arrangement and simple electrics.

 

Btw, I have just started to plan a layout for a friend of mine. It will be build in a similar way, the modules just a bit longer and wider to accomodate double track. It will be based on the Swiss Bern-Loetschberg-Simplon line, the theme being the part from leaving the Loetschberg tunnel in the south, all the way down to Brig. I know this layout will be a killer!

 

I wish I had more space and funds - I´d go for the Yamaguchi line!

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disturbman

Jeff - the more I think of it the more I'm persuaded that I want to something very narrow (like Ulrich has been doing) and to have it as eye level on a shelf. I'm starting to be convinced that I don't want to be bothered to learn complicated (to me) skills like bench working or the other. I like the tools, the money to get the tools and the space to work. Only downside is, I'll also have to forget about continuous running even if I might be planing a half oval or something like that. The only question is how deep I want my modules to be.

 

Ulrich - I'm learning a lot through your own experience. Thanks for posting. Hum... maybe I should come and visit you once. I'm not that far away.

 

Your friend's plan looks promising. I would love to see that documented somewhere (with a preference for here).

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cteno4

yeah a nice little point to point! you could use a reversing circuit to make it run on the shelf would be quite nice.

 

you can fit a lot of scenery in on a 8-12" deep module. best to decide what shelf it needs to fit on!

 

experiment some with some hunks of cardboard, some track, buildings, and scenery bits and you will get a feel for how deep will please you for what you want to do for eye level. if you are at eye level you can do more forced perspectives by compressing your depth and you wont need as exaggerated verticals as you will see it from the side instead of more from the top (where it tends to disappear more). eye level modeling is a different beast from the usual table top or lower large layout where you get more of an areal view most of the time. but it lends itself to doing greater detail bits that can really be outstanding!

 

jeff

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The_Ghan

...

Btw, I have just started to plan a layout for a friend of mine. It will be build in a similar way, the modules just a bit longer and wider to accomodate double track. It will be based on the Swiss Bern-Loetschberg-Simplon line, the theme being the part from leaving the Loetschberg tunnel in the south, all the way down to Brig. I know this layout will be a killer!

...

 

Oh ... Swiss rail!  I was standing on the Matterhorn top station looking down at Zermatt with my wife when I decided, after a 25 year break, to get back into model rail.  Actually, it was Mrs Ghan that suggested that Zermatt looked like a model and I mentioned that I used to have a model railroad (OO scale, Hornby, mostly LMS because I preferred the red colour).  Originally I was going to model Zermatt to Tasch as a shelf layout but back in Australia I could not easily source models - plus they are freakin' expensive.  So I looked to Japan as I had lived there ... and here I am.

 

Zermatt to Tasch would still make a great shelf layout, in my opinion.  Perhaps one day.

 

Cheers

 

The_Ghan

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Sir Madog

The_Ghan - that´s a very nice line to model, probably more train moves than the northeastern corridor in the US. Unfortunately, that Bemo stuff is really expensive - I get 6 super-detailed steamers of Japanese prototype for the price of one RhB steamer!

 

disturbman - not a bad idea, but leave me some time to put up the shelf and have something up and running. For the time being, the modules occupy my desk, but my wife already starts to complain about that.

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Sir Madog

Just one more picture:

 

P1030005klein2.jpg

 

... and a few more thoughts on the construction of mini-modules:

 

If I were to start all over again, I´d make them a little wider and longer. The basic module box could be kept simple, but would probably require some sort of support to prevent it from sagging or warping. A wooden beam, running down in the middle, would do the job.

 

A layout based on mini-modules makes a nice stage for our trains and is an ideal way to go for small shelf layouts, but if you are deep down into operations, there are limitations. A footprint of about 96 sq. inches does not allow for extensive track arrangements..

 

Mini-modules focus on scenery, not on operation.

 

As I build more modules, I will post further thoughts and ideas here.

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Sir Madog

yeah a nice little point to point! you could use a reversing circuit to make it run on the shelf would be quite nice.

 

jeff

 

Got me thinking, Jeff!

 

All I can do on my layout is letting a train (or two) shuttle back and forth. So why not adapt the track plan accordingly? I´ll gain some space for a "city" module and even one more scenic module. I can still run the odd steam rail fan special as a push-pull train with a diesel loco in the back, which is even prototypical.

 

New track plan idea:

 

Layout4.jpg

 

I am going to make that station module as one module!

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KenS

Nice idea. Your mini-module approach is very flexible, and I think in the long term that's going to be a big benefit, as you can rearrange things if you get tired of a track arrangement, rather than having to tear things apart the way you would with an ordinary layout.

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cteno4

 

If I were to start all over again, I´d make them a little wider and longer. The basic module box could be kept simple, but would probably require some sort of support to prevent it from sagging or warping. A wooden beam, running down in the middle, would do the job.

 

 

Ive been noodling on this design for the flat to modules. i wonder if moving the two ends in a inch or so from the ends and making them maybe 2" narrower than the module width. then put a small strip down the center between the two uprights like you suggested to help keep things flat over time. this would minimize the visual effect of the uprights some and also reduce weight some.

 

we are actually looking at doing similar modules like 1m long by 9-12" deep to do a double unitrak shinkansen line for a fast modular setup of shinkansen lines. rub there is with the size planking may not work as it may be too prone to warping eventually, and could get really heavy, so we are looking at some other solutions, but with the same idea of keeping things as simple as possible.

 

jeff

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Mudkip Orange

All you need to do is roughly shape the Styrofoam to get the contours you want, paint it with a dark brown acrylic paint, cover it with a thick layer of white glue and "plant " WS Clump Foliage on it.

 

Oh yeah?

 

And what about that perfectly weathered bridge, huh? What about those rock formations? With a fricking waterfall? You have created an N scale version of the kind of place couples go to make out.

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cteno4

Oh yeah?

 

And what about that perfectly weathered bridge, huh? What about those rock formations? With a fricking waterfall? You have created an N scale version of the kind of place couples go to make out.

 

Mudkip,

 

thats really just some practice with some pretty simple techniques. you can use chalks, weathering powders, air brush, etc to do some great weathering. you can even use makeup! just takes some practice to get some great results. buy some old train cars and bridges for $1 at the next train show to use to practice on. really is not as hard as it looks!

 

jeff

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