It Started With An Itch – Part VIII

It Started With An Itch – Part VIII
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Part VIII – The Final Instalment Of Gary’s Blog

The station building was in what looked like a zillion pieces. If I wanted it to become one solid building then there was obviously a fair bit of work ahead of me. The illustration on the box though was encouraging, even if the instructions weren’t! So, gingerly picking up pieces ‘A’ and ‘B’, I began experimenting to try and work out how they were supposed to fit together.

As they were roof sections the answer was pretty obvious. Only there was bit ‘C’, a thin strip of plastic, that somehow was supposed to sit on top of them.  Rather puzzlingly, it had a square hole cut in it, so what was that all about? A despairing look back at the instructions and it seemed that that was for chimney (Parts J, K, L and M) to fit into. This was all getting rather confusing and I started thinking that just maybe my layout just didn’t need a station after all.

There was though this gap on the baseboard that needed finishing. Populated with a nearby road and the obligatory pub, only a station building would really sensibly complete the scene. Really, I had no other option then than to break open the glue and to get all sticky. But then I had a thought. Back in the day, when my spitfire’s and hurricanes all looked like they had crashed straight out of the box, I had simply just dived in and stuck them together in one go. Things like setting times being boring to a 9-year-old. However, I had now been refined for a few more decades, so why all the rush?

My two trains were playing together real fine and the landscape through which they ran looked good. Some finishing touches would certainly help things along, but Rome wasn’t built in a day, so why should my station building? Patience. That was the key word! Accordingly, instead of looking at it as a whole, I instead copied the example of the diagrams that were upon the paper that accompanied all the plastic bits and broke the task down into sections. Do the roof today, the walls tomorrow, etc, etc

The whole thing now seemed far more manageable and, as the days went, by, so my station began to take shape. And it wasn’t that of a derelict, condemned, building either. Instead I was becoming rather proud of the structure that I was slowly constructing Furthermore, I was quite enjoying doing it. Amazing!

This hobby just has so many facets to it. On the face of it, there is only one, running a train around a track. But in truth, rather akin to an onion, it has many layers; each one a challenge and an experience. Some of them I had found daunting (Getting two pieces of track to join together only being an example of many) but others, landscaping for example, were just plain fun to do right from the start.

Along my journey, from simply holding a box containing a train set to building a fully functional layout, now populated with a rather nice station building and platform plus a goods shed, I had acquired a number of skills that beforehand I would have simply discarded as not being for me thanks. At times during this fascinating ride I have been a carpenter, an electrician, a welder (Ok, I was armed only with a soldering iron but the principle remains) an artist and now I was a construction engineer too! What other pastime offers up such a variety of skills?

Of course, like many other model railroaders, there are jobs that I like doing and jobs that, if I could, I would get someone else to do. Specialising, albeit with regard to a task or a certain aspect of the hobby, does certainly has its attraction. However, sometimes in order to grow, you also need to stretch, and so bravely going it alone has opened up new vistas to me. My only regret being that I hadn’t attempted to have a go at doing them before.

To my friends I am ‘Only playing with toys” and, say what I like, demonstrate what I may, their minds are never unfortunately going to change. One man’s food is another’s poison and, whilst I think (Actually I know) that they are missing out on a lot of fun. Perhaps visiting the miniature world is not such an adventure for everyone. But it has become very much one for me and more! Indeed, one of my layouts has just got an invite to its 4th show so something must be going right.

My ‘skills’ though are at a very early embryotic stage. Some may flourish, others may die by the wayside (Only through neglect though, never by desire). Accordingly, I still have much to learn and, hopefully, master. But things are getting there and although I doubt very much that I will ever be much of a scratch builder, I have nevertheless experienced some success constructing walls out of plaster and match sticks. So, who knows, perhaps the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t an oncoming train after all!

Finally, honest !, I am now beginning to enjoy too another branch line of the hobby, namely research! Many magazines spoke of it, but I didn’t pay much attention at the time. However, now that my little railway network has settled down into some sort of order I am looking to build others. But, whereas before I just thought, station, pub, somewhere to park the trains, I am now considering much more themed layouts such as a China Clay mine or a Scottish lumber yard. In order to be able to achieve this, I first need to know something about how they looked and operated. Hence the reason why my ‘training sessions’ now extend long into the evening as I lounge in a comfy chair, reading a particular article or page that is of interest. I’ve turned into a student all over again! Just where is this fascinating pastime going to take me to next?

Ok, so that really is it for this story. If you have somehow managed to make it through all eight episodes of the saga then thank you very much for your indulgence. Equally, if like me, you are a newcomer to this hobby and wondering just how to start, I hope that my rather rambling tale of my early experiences will encourage, rather than deter, you. The biggest lesson that I have learnt though is to just give it a go because you are capable of doing far more than you think you can. I know, because I just have, and the rewards were not only fun, but extremely rewarding!

Cheers !


ts didn’t look at all bad.

About The Author


Favourite Scale: OO / 1:76 Likes: Making small stuff on the laser cutter Dislikes: Counting rivets Other info: Starting to dabble with the world of 3D printing a bit to enhance the products we create on the laser. Layout: Whitwick Grove


  1. meltonpieman

    Hi Gary

    I like the quary/rock face behind the goods shed. Can you tell me what it was constructed from and the method you used?

    Regards David

  2. Gary_Beard

    The rock face is created out of Celotex insulation board which is available in a number of hardware stores, mine came from Wickes. I removed the covering from both sides of the board (All the stuff saying that its Celotex) before roughly cutting it into blocks the size that I required with a kitchen knife (This can be a messy job, so have a hoover to hand, a face mask might be prudent too. It does makes up for it though by being easy to carve and cut).

    I then made a series of very rough vertical slashes down the faces of all the blocks, not too deep, scratches really, again using the kitchen knife. Just slash away and don’t try to be too neat and precise. Equally not every slash needs to go from the top to the bottom or be the same depth and length. Basically, just play 😉

    That fun completed, carry on making more slashes, only this time horizontally. Again, they don’t need to be end to end. Think how the cuts might have been made by glaciers or water, making sure that 90% of the time the slashes are all in the same general direction. The top surface of the blocks also needs to be subjected to this treatment so its fairly important that the slashes there go in the same direction as those on the cliff face.

    Once your block has been scratched, top and side, give it a good shake in order to remove any loose material.

    Then it becomes time to get busy with the spray cans so moving outside would be prudent at this point. I used the black and grey £3 spray cans that are available at Wilcos but any will do

    Select a direction, say East end of a block to its West end, and spray all the way along the block in that direction with the black spray.

    Then, reversing direction (West end to East End) spray the block with the grey paint.

    Repeat and play with it until you are comfortable that it looks something like what you want. Basically looking at it in one direction it should look mainly black, whilst from the other direction grey. Head on though, and from pretty much every other angle, it should now have relief that is a mixture of black and grey.

    Leave to dry for around 24 hours.

    The entire cliff face is made up of a number of blocks that have been prepared this way. Each of them stuck down to the baseboard with PVA with the join to its neighbour sealed by Wilco instant grab power bond adhesive. This adhesive remains pliable for about 10 minutes allowing plenty of time for you to mould it such that it looks like part of the cliff face rather than just a cement join. Providing that your board is empty, other than for the rockface, a quick spray with the cans over these joins quickly hides them. Otherwise make a fairly strong black wash (I use the £1 bottles of Reeves paint that are available from ‘The Range’ so only a few drops need to be added to a plastic cup 2/3rds full of water) and then let it run down each of your ‘gullies’.

    Woodlands scenic scatter was then used to add ‘grass’ to the top of the cliffs alongside some static grasses.

    The same companies Lichen was dangled down the cliffs before bushes etc were added to complete the scene and hide any mistakes 😉

    Pleased you like the result and I hope that this helps

    • meltonpieman

      Thanks Gary
      I have made most of my rockfaces from plaster moulds but I have tried celotex on a small scale and made the mistake of using washes directly onto the celotex. It all soaked in leaving me with dirty yellow rocks! An acrylic spray primer then washes sorted that and the result, while not as good as moulded rocks, was very good.

      Our club layout will have quite a bit of quary and I like the idea of building up in blocks like yours, so I will suggest that. It will certainly make the transprting of the boards a lot easier. The video with the polystyrene looks even messier than celotex and I think that I will stay away from that.

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