All posts by Alan Hill

Here We Go Again…

Sorry… It’s been a while… And not for the first time, I’m back. So, hopefully is Boltorr Road Halt. But no heartfelt excuses… they will emerge over time.

But a few things have been happening. I could no longer stand the terrible arch on the stone overbridge. This has been replaced with an iron bridge and leaves the layout ready for complete landscaping.

I also have a side project – T-Trak, something completely different, but more of that anon.

So. Time to tidy up, find the tools and materials I thought I’d lost and catch that train.

The Bridge – the next chapter

Other than setting the bridge into the landscape and adding a bit of weedy flora, the road bridge is more or less done.

A Southern Region horsebox and 12T MOGO disappear under the bridge heading towards the MOD sidings...
A Southern Region horsebox and 12T MOGO disappear under the bridge heading towards the MOD sidings…

Here are the things I’ve learned:

  • Rendering stonework is not the hard part
  • Roads and lanes are very difficult. To start with, they’re not even black…
  • Pigment powder is very, very dense, no matter how little you think you’re using…
I'm going to have to think about that road surface...
I’m going to have to think about that road surface… Yes, the inside wall is whitewashed and there’s a wooden rubbing strip

So, I think it’s time to look at track… Let’s get something running!

Building Bridges

Where was I? Oh yes. I spent days, yes, days, applying stonework to my MDF bridge armature using my DAS clay technique.

In the end it looks great. A bit of a caricature of vernacular stonework if I’m honest, but as the scale gets smaller a bit of emphasis helps.

Okay. I know the arch is asymmetrical. But there’s a story behind it. At least, there will be…

A few weeks ago I was in Home Depot and I noticed in the shaky can section they had a textured “granite” spray, so this was a chance to try it out. After masking out the roadway and whitewashed walls and wooden rubbing strip I spent a happy moment in the garage carefully priming the structure. This paint goes on really thick, so take your time with several thin coats letting it dry in between

In the event it was pretty cold there, so the paint had a problem “drying” in the garage, so in the end I brought it indoors, where Mrs Hill and I spent a heady night with the bridge perched above a heating vent.

Once again, the texture was possibly a bit much, but as I started to render the surface back it started to look pretty good. I also started to pick out individual blocks in various shades of grey. Just a fine brush and a palette of black and warm white with the occasional bit of pink. Yes. Granite has pink in it. I also treated a couple of areas with a mossy green colour under ledges and in corners although these aren’t evident in the images, but will pull out when I apply the final matt varnish coat… I hope.

Initially I used dropper bottles to drip various mixtures of grey/cream to represent mortar between the stones. Moisten with “wet-water” first. If you dilute your mixtures correctly, at first the courses look pretty garish, but as the paint dries it cuts back. If I found any particular spot was looking a bit too much I used a torn edge of paper towel to soak up the excess. Once dry use a stiff dry-brush to cut it back further if required

You’ll notice that above the tracks I’ve tried to imply soot and grime from the steam and exhaust of the engines. Also, on the right I’ve started to suggest the cornerstones have been painted white for safety reasons. There will be a platform continuing under the bridge. I’m also going to place a light in there for effect – and the convenience of people waiting for a train.

Tailgating? What’s that?

And this is where I’m at. A bit of a local traffic jam on the bridge where the new NHS midwife is on her way to a prenatal home visit. Obviously, she’s new to Dartmoor from the Big City or she wouldn’t have a Morris Minor convertible. Just wait for the first real downpour or blizzard… Meanwhile the RAC guy is on the rounds, fixing the “Do Not Feed The Ponies” signs and rescuing damsels in distress.

So now the bridge awaits the application of  weathering powders and a bit of plant life sprouting from appropriate places before blending into the landscape.

The road surface – actually one of the most difficult modelling challenges – is also awaiting treatment a la Kathy Millatt, while the wooden rubbing strip is going to be aged using another fine product, MicroMark Age-It-Easy.

Ex Libris: Backtracking v3

Backtracking Around Plymouth, Tavistock South & Launceston
Bernard Mills, Pen&Ink, 2018


Bernard Mills series of Then & Now books covering the railways around Plymouth have been an excellent source for setting the scene for my Boltorr branch.

So this latest book has hit the jackpot for me, since it’s focused on the very route my imaginary railway branches from.

Now. Where Was I?

Well, summer’s over. We’ve even seen a surprise snowstorm here in New Jersey. And my sister actually lives on Dartmoor tells me they’ve had snow there as well.

So it’s back to work on the Boltorr branch. 

I’m currently working on the road bridge which forms the scenic break at the northern end of the layout. It’s built using a structure of 2mm MDF, and stonework of chips of DAS modelling clay. 

The bridge ready for trimming
The bridge ready for trimming and rendering

All stonework is finished except for some trimming and my next stage will be representing the road, actually one of the most difficult exercises in modelling. I also have some etched drain covers and rain grills to add some detail. I just have to figure how to give the road a hint of camber.

The bridge will then be ready for painting and rendering.

Devon General 46 squeezes across
Devon General 46 squeezes across

My priority now will be to get the basic landform settled so I can actually lay some track. Initially the layout will be DC, but I’m wiring it so it will be easy to convert to DCC at some point.