For the past few weeks we have been blessed with some lovely weather in this part of the country, so most of my time has been spent out in the garden. I have of course ventured into the layout room from time to time, but very little modelling has taken place. Instead I have been casting a critical eye over Bleddfa Road in general, and asking certain questions. On the whole I am more than happy with how the layout is developing. As my eye travels along the line I think the occupation crossing works well, as does the cottage by the side of it and the platelayers hut, but I’m not sure about the small signal cabin?
The original layout design called for an open ground frame, would that work better, or should I persevere with the cabin? In both cases a lever frame would be required, and as mentioned in a previous post I had a couple of ‘MSE’ etches in stock, for what are described as ‘Saxby & Farmer’ type frames.
The best way to answer my question was to solder one of the frames up, try it out on the layout and compare its appearance with the signal cabin. The etch for the frame itself is a simple fold up assembly, but the levers call for some delicate work with the soldering iron.
I’m pleased to say that my soldering survived a good scrub with Ciff, followed by a hot water rinse. So far so good, all I needed now was a small platform to house the frame. The one that once stood at Llanrhaiadr Mochnant on the Tanat Valley caught my eye, providing all the inspiration that I needed. Though as usual I adapted it to suit my needs rather than model an exact replica of it.
The platform was constructed around the lever frame using 60 thou styrene sheet, and then clad in Slater’s embossed brick sheet. Its surface being gently sanded down to remove the rounded edges of each brick. The steps were build up from lamination’s of styrene, and the timber deck was made from sleeper strip.
At this point the frame with its base was placed on the layout, and photos were taken from numerous angles. This is something that I do all the time, it doesn’t matter what I am modelling. I like to see how things look through the camera lens, which can be very cruel at times. But despite that the camera is a very useful tool, for it tends to catch the defects that are somehow missed by the naked eye. I then study the photos, take a step back and ask myself if the idea works, could it be better, does it blend into the scene? Sometimes things just don’t workout as I hoped, but after seeing the frame in place I immediately felt it looked right for the scene that I was modelling. Had I modelled Bleddfa Road as a through station, then I might well have gone with the signal box, which would have controlled the points down in the goods yard as well. Rather than just those on the approach to the station and siding loop.
After leaving the frame in place for a couple of days I changed the arrangement of the planking at the front of the frame. Happy at last the paints came out and I had a major setback for most of them had gone off. Normally that wouldn’t have been a problem, but in these strange and challenging times modelling supplies are becoming hard to get hold of. So I had to make do with what few paints were still usable, I started by painting the brick base a mortar colour. To my eye and under my layouts lighting Humbrol enamel matt 121 pale stone isn’t a bad match for mortar. Once touch dry it was removed with a thinners moistened cloth to leave the paint in the mortar courses. Paints labelled as brick red look completely wrong to me, so I usually add light and dark earth, leather, flesh and even gunmetal to dull buffer beam red for my brick mixes, all the paints listed being enamels. Unfortunately only coach crimson, light earth, flesh and gunmetal were fit to be used, but nevertheless I came up with some suitable brick like tones. As usual the timber surfaces were painted with dilute gunmetal enamel, don’t ask me the ratio of paint to thinners, that is something to judge for yourself by experimenting.
Had I built two frames then this one would have been ‘Bleddfa East’, controlling the points, their traps and facing point locks at this end of the layout. The frame and the two point control levers are painted in gunmetal, the other levers which operate the point locks being a faded blue. The whole frame was given a light dusting of rust weathering powders, no polished handles and release levers here, for having studied a few photos of the prototype I discovered that most were painted in the same colour as the levers. Perfectly sensible when you consider how exposed they were to the elements.
Looking at the frame in the other direction, and from across the track. There is no doubt in my mind that the simple open frame works far better than the signal cabin. The whole area has been opened up and looks more desolate, which I feel helps capture the look of a rural outpost far off the beaten track.
So it is goodbye to the signal cabin, but the basic shell won’t go to waste for it has already been reduced in height, and will eventually be clad in corrugated iron sheet. It will then take its place down in the goods yard, alongside the timber shed of the coal merchant.
Whether the grouping of the sheds remain like this I wouldn’t know, for I am playing around with different ideas for now. All will become clearer once they have been worked up a bit more and painted. But that is something that will have to wait for now, along with the combined gents and lamp hut for the station platform, shades of Llanrhaiadr Mochnant. For with the ground frame in place I no longer have an excuse to further delay the installation of the point rodding.