Archive for the ‘Buildings’ Category

So here’s the current building project showing several repairs, despite my brilliant plan from a couple of weeks ago. Never mind, it’ll all be hidden under the clay. The white paper is also a repair but that was due to bad marking up, which meant I had a gap of about 2mm at the bottom but the top was correct. I glued some extra card on with superglue, braced it with paper on both sides, and cut it carefully along the correct line when dry. So far it hasn’t collapsed, so I’m calling it a success.

Very observant people will notice that then window in the middle of the first floor on this end of the building is blocked out in the picture above. this is because I want an arched door there giving access to the cellar, and often these stick up into the floor above, so it would be a pain in the backside to have a window right above it. Of course I could just claim this was of the non-protruding-into-the-floor variety but the windows gave the end a rather unbalanced feel, so I’m moving that window further to the left. I’m also not sure why that small window is between the floors, so that’ll be moving up as soon as I’ve got my act together.

I’ve also got to figure out how to make the steps.


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We have pleasure in presenting our latest Executive Bijou Dark Tower, the ideal starter home or secret laboratory for the aspiring ‘Mad’ Professor or Dark Lord.

This compact residence comes complete with pitchfork-proof door (choice of ominous creaks), gloomy archway, and this years must-have feature, an upper storey designed to lean in a threatening manner for the general intimidation of passers-by, and dropping large objects on pitchfork wielding mobs. The tower also features en-suite secret passage in all rooms and small cupboard for your Igor.

Optional extras include deluxe cobwebs, brass lightning conductors for all those nefarious experiments, and for the security conscious evil tyrant, a dragon resistant roof.

The tower is excellently situated with your very own village to terrorise, and a handy rail connection for those essential visits to far-flung minions and the supermarket.

Apply to Agents De Evil, the Estate Agent for the discerning megalomaniac.

Hmm…. Anyway. Here’s the tower halfway through painting, white drybrushed over dark grey.

It’s the second attempt using clay on card and worked surprisingly well except that it really does lean threateningly: when I pushed the post office building into the wet clay so the two buildings fitted snugly together, I managed to tip the tower forward and didn’t notice until everything dried off. At least it is a building not a locomotive so I can hide the gap with a tree.  Locomotives look a bit silly with foliage.

The ‘stones’ are score lines using a piece of wire, and probably a bit too neat. I learned this time that the clay dries slowly. Very. Very. Slowly. I’ll take my time and make nice interesting shapes in future.

And I really need to paint it a lighter colour.

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About a week ago I was pretending to have a social life in the local city of Esslingen, while doing a bit more research. Esslingen is known for its medieval city centre and gates, and I was looking for something to adapt to make an entrance for trains to run through and hopefully distract people from the fact they were really running around in circles.

First, because it was nearest the bus stop, is the  Pliensauturm, once one of the most important gates as it guarded the bridge over the river.

Then in what is now the centre, the Schelztor. I’m not sure what it used to guard but it is currently hosting an italian ice cream shop, and as long as I have known it, sported a metal person balancing on a pole. I’m not sure why either.

Someone wasn’t measuring that carefully here, judging by the way all the windows are spaced, and the city crest is anything but central.

On the other end of the city is the Wolf’s gate, still my favourite since I wandered under it as a twenty year old on my first trip ‘abroad’.

Not named for a fearsome winter when the city was invaded by wolves, but a nickname that came about because the two lion statures on the outside were eroded over the years and look like wolves, apparently.

They must have had some very strange wolves locally, that’s all I can say.

It seems that the method for building these was pretty standardized: a three-sided stone box and filling the inside bits with a wooden building, which was probably cheaper than using stone for everything.

On Wornritzhausen, the gate is viewed from the outside, so it’ll be stone faced. The village is too small for anything as grand as Esslingen, but I’m assuming that it needed some security in the golden era when it was a trading point for the area.

So far we have a basic form:

That spindly support will get bigger and the arch will shrink when I add clay to represent the stone covering. Remembering to make sure I had 5mm clearance for the clay was more confusing than I expected.


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So, the ugly end of the model is now complete, and the Hofelbahbahn has somewhere to fix what the management laughingly refers to as its ‘motive power fleet’.

Both this and what is now the post office were the main buildings in the local filling station, garage and dealership, a sizable business owned by no less a personage than the local mayor, who pushed through planning permission to expand and renovate the buildings, before going bankrupt and having to sell everything off. Since then not a lot has been done. The old sign was removed before it fell on anyone and goodness knows who took the wires out of the junction box, and of course Frau Schmidt took over the old showroom and opened the post office, but everyone had more important things to do than tidy up an abandoned garage, so that was about it.

Then the Mayor was finally outvoted and the railway came, and the company rented the garage. The Mayor still hasn’t forgiven them for that.

It doesn’t look like the air conditioner works any more, but it is probably more trouble than it is worth to take it down. Hopefully it won’t fall off, or Frau Schmidt will have something to say to the railway.

Of course in ‘real life’ this is a concoction of old packaging, bits of wire and guitar strings, and corrugated card from the remains of one of those institutional leaving presents you get when you’ve worked somewhere long enough that people feel guilty for not giving you a leaving present. Even the air conditioner is mostly card and a little piece of mesh which made me quite ridiculously smug. Yes, I know the real thing has a bigger hole at the front but that’s how big a hole punch is. What do you want, blood?

Now that is sorted out, I only need to make a town gate and I can start to think about the ground cover for this side of the track.

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German builders think a roof isn’t properly made unless it weighs almost as much as the house it is covering: our apartment building has a tree trunk forming the roof ridge line, supported by solid beams of rough cut pine. This is because a roof here must withstand not just sun and rain, but also hailstones the size of golf balls, lightning strikes, high winds, and up to three metres of snow; sometimes all on the same day.

And that’s in summer. In winter it gets really bad.

So, I needed to make a solid roof on my model. I’m making the building out of card, because it has a more natural feel than Plasticard, and is biodegradable too, which appeals to my inner hippy. It also doesn’t need spray primer and I can get the stuff free from cornflake packets if need be.

As my work ethic is pretty well non existent after 5pm, I quickly decided that individual tiles seemed far too difficult, so I made strips of card 10mm wide and cut slits into them about 7mm deep at 5mm intervals. Having done some pretty exhaustive research, mostly consisting of leaning out of the bathroom skylight with a tape measure, I know these are pretty close to scale size. The ridge tiles are card folded over at one end and then wrapped around the tip of a small ‘da Vinchi Hobbyist’ paintbrush handle*.

Of course, curvy interlocking pantiles are more typical of this area than flat tiles, but there are enough of both styles about that I’m not going to worry too much, and I’m sure anyone offended by it will be more than happy to make me a 1:55 scale mould so I can use the correct form in future.

The gap in the tiles is to fit the ‘extension’ which should fit neatly against the building and across the roof. For once I actually managed to plan ahead instead of trying to fit things together after the event.

*Other paintbrush handles are available.

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First thing to remember for next time: When adding 5mm of clay to a building, this makes it a bigger building. By about 5mm in each direction. How did I not think of this? fortunately I think I got away with it, and I’m sure you won’t tell anyone.

Apart from this things went reasonably well. Next time I’ll let the clay dry out a bit longer before cutting out the windows, and there needs to be a lot more bracing on the card carcass, but nothing broke too much, and what did was fixable. I added a bit of texture by pressing the building into some 120 grit sandpaper, an operation that would have worked better if I hadn’t had a very inquisitive two year old on my knee at the time. Two year old children, incidentally,  are magnetically attracted to damp clay: this applies even if they are in a different room of the building when you start work. They also don’t understand why boring grown ups insist on keeping the clay in one place.

Anyway, after we’d scraped the clay fingerprints off the furniture, I tried painting the model. Most buildings locally are a sort of off-white colour, which looks strange in model form, so I went looking for buildings that showed a bit more ‘character, or to put it another way, ‘dirt’, like this old farm in the centre of our village.

Time and weather and probably a lot of road dirt, have left their mark:

Recreating this in model form took some experimentation, and the discovery that washes of colour don’t really work on such a porous surface. At one point I thought I was about to add a couple more millimetres in paint, but after a considerable amount of time drybrushing I eventually ran out of mistakes to make and got something presentable, so I claimed that was the effect I was aiming for all the time.

The building should look a bit tatty as: it was part of a garage until a few years ago and hasn’t had a lot of maintenance since, but I’m still not sure if I’ve overdone it a bit.

We shall see after I’ve added a bit more detail.

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Running toy trains round a circle of track is only exciting for so long, so this week I finally got on with making the first building for the model railway.

In my fevered imagination, this side of the model will look like a fairly typical village with a cluster of buildings and a narrow gauge railway that happens to run along the main road. It all works very well in my head, as long as I ignore my complete ignorance about how I was going to make them.

Optimism is a wonderful thing, and denial of the facts can look almost as good if you squint.

I decided to make a start on the Post Office. The original plan was for it to be parallel to the track but this lasted until the moment I put it on the model and realised it would mess up just about everything else in that corner. Some bodging later it looked like this:

I’m not entirely happy with this new position but I’ve convinced myself it will work a bit better when the other buildings are added. Hopefully.

The ‘city gate’ will probably follow the line of the post office wall, so it isn’t perfectly in line with the track. Hopefully this will give the impression that the railway came much later than the buildings, and the train is running onto the scene from another part of the village, rather than trundling around in endless circles…

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