The Little World – Theatre In The Roundhouse

My visit to the West Australian Model Railway Exhibition is always enjoyable, but this year has been even more so…I have had time to reflect upon the theatre of what I was seeing. In some cases it was a complex thing and the layouts deserve praise for the sheer scale of their works.

None more so than that of the large-scale operators. I have a particular affection for them as I once owned a large amount of LGB rolling stock and track and took part in several of the rather crude early layouts at this exhibition. It was held in different halls on various years and we took advantage of hall tables and stages for the large brass track. It all arrived in boxes, we assembled a scratch layout on the floor, and then ran trains rather willy-nilly for a weekend.

No such crudities now. They have a large dedicated oval layout with three tracks available, plus shunting yards and steaming bays. They operate electric two-rail, battery-powered r/c, and live steam. I’ll bet they would run clockwork if they could get the mechanisms. The trains seem to be the same mixed bag consists that we used to lash up, but with better cars and more realistic operation. As the operation is of first concern, they are nor worried about mixing different rail systems on the layout…as long as the trains are accurate in themselves.

One thing I was bemused by was the different show that the electric trains provided vs the live steamer. The LMS locomotive with the wonderful carmine LMS passenger coaches was being driven by hand, and the minute adjustments needed to get it started and then trimmed for steady running around the circuit meant that the driver had to circle the layout at a fast clip himself. You got to see the train at intervals between seeing him. The electric people could stand in the centre and drive the trains past you for an uninterrupted view. I did note, though, that they had to contend with oil and material on the rails so there was a fair bit of wiping down after the steamers had finished. One thing – he got more healthful exercise that they did.

The temporary nature of the exhibition combined with the massive nature of the trestles and rail yards meant that scenery was kept to a minimum. It would be good to see some of these trains in a natural setting like a garden, or on a fully sculptured layout. The scale would hover between 1:22.5 – 1:29 but that is pretty consistent with the car model scale so there should be a fair supply of accessories available. Even dollhouse gear can be found in 1:24, if you wanted to get really, really detailed.

And I really, really think it would be a good idea.


The Holiday Season

We sure are Spartans when it comes to holidays here in Western Australia. We’ve just coped with Buddha’s Birthday, and some of us have managed 2 seders and are in the middle of a week eating squares of religious chipboard.

Today we all start the Easter cycle, and it’s not an electric start, either – most places of entertainment are shut, including the pubs, and the only general movement is the desperate holiday-makers driving south. Even they have it hard – there are double-demerit points for every imaginable road offence as well as increased fines. Those of us who are going to stay at home have it lucky.

Saturday will be chaos piled on madness as the whole town tries to buy food, petrol, and chocolate eggs. They could have done that on Thursday or Wednesday or any day back to last Easter, but they haven’t. The lines at the checkouts will be long and fuming.

I plan to retreat – to my little world. The Goldfisch Studios buildings are all complete and it is now time to assemble them in various combinations and lay the groundwork for a Hollywood Honeys advertising shoot. I’ve gotten a new batch of models – both human and miniature – and it is time to play again.

The really good news for me is that this year I also have a couple of new outlets for my studio work – I joined an internet exchange group that takes model car pictures and I also joined a physical collector’s group here in Perth. At least I think I have – apparently due to club rules my application for membership must be tabled for a month to allow the members to decide whether I am collectible. I shall visit the meeting in clean clothing and not break wind.

At least there will be chocolate this weekend. I’ve been given a number of celebration rabbits and I’m sure there will be more coming. Over-priced, over-sugared, and over-decorated they may be, but I love ’em.



The Little World – Frugal Is Another Word For Cheap

And I am getting to be as cheap as…

As a follow-on from my post regarding the use of ” that ” at model expositions, I have decided to go around to our local road verges and make models of the structures that are found there. It would appear to be a fertile field of endeavour. There is more junk at the side of the road than at the council tip.

And I don’t mean just on ” clean-up ” verge collection week, either. Every street in Perth has its share of post boxes, telephone booths, electricity boxes, hydrants, and connectors. I have barely scratched the surface with these six items. When I start to make bus stops the thing will blow out of all proportion.

These are humble models in 1:18th scale. They are mostly foam-core board with a wrap of drawing paper and the occasional plastic detail. The signs are drafted on the computer, printed out, then glued on. They have the virtue of being dimensionally correct as I went round to our local road verges and measured the originals myself – to the amusement of the locals. The colours are correct because I took digital pictures of them as I worked – this was also a source of detail for the signs.

I spent nothing on them save time and all the materials came from overflowing scrap bins. I probably have enough off-cuts of larger projects to make up the entire suburb.

The beauty of them is they will allow me to make a diorama presentation of something as simple as a road junction or car park that will feature a number of vehicles but with an authentic stage setting. People won’t realise why it looks right, as most of the time these humble little boxes and fittings are mentally invisible.

The Little World Week – That That That

When you are showing people your little world you should listen carefully for the use of the word ” that “. It lets you know how the venture is going.

a. ” That ” in the singular is fine. ” That is a model of a Spitfire. ” said at a plastic model expo is perfectly fine, unless it is a model of a Thunderbolt. The person using the singular ” that ” may be explaining the display to his child. This is a good thing – young people need to know about Spitfires, Thunderbolts, and plastic models in general. You have engaged the attention of the masses to a certain extent. Let us hope they continue to take an interest. If Pappa explains the difference between Spitfires and Hurricanes and Typhoons to the youngster and the kid asks for all three kits, we are on a winner!

b. ” That…That ” in frosty tones is not so so good. If it is said by an imperious club committee member as they point to your model, you can take it that there is something they don’t like. Not that you are obliged to do anything about it, mind. Just chill and see where the whole thing is going. You can always bite them if they keep on pointing.

c. ” That…That…That…” on the other hand, is a sign that you have succeeded. If it is accompanied by a squeal and a little dance you know you may have become a legend. It means that the viewer has seen your model and it has stirred up some memory or recognition on their deepest level. They cannot even articulate why they like it, but they do. Now is the time to sidle up to them and suggest they buy it for $ 500. If they press their wallet on you, grasp it and run.

Ya never know yer luck in a big model exhibition…

The Little World Week – Part Five – Papering Over Your Problems

dscf9453On my one and only visit to Japan I visited a gift shop in a tourist tower that had various hobby kits for sale. They were charming little things that allowed one to construct models of school classrooms, temples, television towers, castles, etc, and the most impressive thing about them was that they were all just made from sheets of paper. You got a booklet of pre-printed plans, cut carefully around the bits with scissors or a scalpel blade, and bent, curled, glued and folded until you had Osaka Castle.

I gathered that it was a characteristic Japanese hobby – and I salute their skills.

I’ve also seen any number of European-produced paper and card kits of ships, buildings, and vehicles that they have made on pre-printed stiff card. The Italian ship at the top of this column is an example that one hobbyist here in Perth likes to make. I don’t know how much his kits cost him, but given the amount of detail on them and the amount of work that he has had to do to make cardboard look so real, I think he has had value for his hobby dollar.

I, too, am starting to get value from paper. I had neglected it as a material for ages, believing it to be both too flimsy and too hard to work. I had consigned it to the HO/OO scale people as a material for English card kits of houses and pubs…and I had seen enough of them in railway layouts to convince me that they were an inferior substitute for Faller and Piko kits. I think the fact that many layouts used just standard printed kits with no additions or paint to cover the joined edges made them seem bad.

In my case I am using the material to make raised panels on foam-core board, to supply corrugated sheet, and to add trim to plain surfaces. In most cases there is a coat of paint and in some cases a lot of weathering. In some special circumstances I can pass a suitable sheet of paper through my Epson inkjet printer and get a realistic building material based upon a real surface seen as a digital image.

The new gas barbeque is one such application. If I can figure out how to impress patterns upon it after the printing I may be able to make stone walls as well. The great attraction of this is the cheerful cheapness of having my own resources to hand and the ability to make unusual surfaces. You cannot always just use Herpa or Faller materials and if you are doing large areas in 1:18 scale you cannot afford to pay hobby shop prices for raw material.

The gluing together of paper is easy…provided it is not some sort of space-age/designer/mutant material. I have found the Canadian Weldbond PVA glue to be excellent – even better than Selly’s Aquadhere, and C 23 balsa glue answers for nearly every other task. Tarzan’s Grip is traditional but hardly more than a thicker C-23 and you pay for it in drying time. Cyanoacrylic glues are not really needed for paper and it is a relief to be able to glue something with PVA without fear of becoming inadvertently stuck to the bench.

One other advantage for the paper modeller – if you ruin a piece in the making it is less of a wrench to discard it entirely and make another. You are less likely to try to ignore your errors and spoil an otherwise good model’s appearance.

Note: I still want to source the sort of cardstock that they print collector’s cards with. It is wonderful, but I do not want to have to buy Gordo Howe* cards to get it.

*Famous Canadian Baseball Star – originally from Cuba. His catch-phrase was ” Babalooo, eh? “

The Little World – Scale Down

rafIn the world of the Little World you can scale down nearly anything…except earth, air, fire, and water. These elements stubbornly insist upon being 1:1 all the time. We do our best to miniaturise them but in the end have to resolve the problem by adjusting our minds.

In the case of the earth, we can sometimes come as close to the thing as possible. You can grind up rocks to make sand and grind the sand further to make dust…and then spread it over your models. In some cases you make the model sticky with glue or paint before you do this an end up with a reasonable texture. In some cases you just dust over the lot and let nature take its course – if you need to re-dust the model you just go out and get more dust. In the most fortunate cases you do not need to purchase it in small bottles for $15.95 a  time.

But sometimes the scale dirt just doesn’t look right, and you find yourself at the hobby shop with your credit card in hand…

Air is invisible, but when you try to fly your R/C aircraft into it you discover that the gusts and eddies make the models react in anything but a scale fashion. It is only when the models get bigger – much bigger – that realistic action starts to take over. And you are in a world of work to get big models approved, built, operating, and paid for.

Water is never going to make a scale model shop look like a real one under way. The physics of the medium is such that everything bobs. Hollywood gets over the problem by filming models in slow motion, but generally the size of the splashes give the game away. Very few scale models can make a realistic bow wave, though non-scale underwater pegs and vanes can be used to almost get the thing right. Surprisingly, the wake at the stern can look very realistic if the propellers are deep enough.

Fire? Well, if you are really making fire – as in steam engines – you are going to have insulation troubles. if you are just trying to make smoke, be aware that most scale smoke is too light and wispy to be useful. Chemical smoke is costly and smelly but does come closest to the real thing. Most people just avoid the question.

Scale light is successful, however, and is going to be even more so in the future as LED ‘s get smaller and more sophisticated. As they do not generate heat, they can be incorporated into all sorts of models.

Scale smell? I must get you to view my 1:18 Chicago stockyards on a hot day. Breathtaking model…

The Little World – The Scale Model Ferret Sniffs Around

screen-shot-2017-02-06-at-10-29-37-pm-copyAnd I don’t mean a scout car. I mean the investigative scale modelling ferret who has a sniff of a good thing and starts to use all the resources to hand to find out where the smell is coming from.

The heading image is a screen shot taken off a website that deals with historic trucks here in Australia. It shows a Southern Cross Petroleum filling station in the Melbourne suburb of Clifton Hill in 1927. Like the other two similar images on the site – from Malvern and Hawthorn – it shows a standardised form of building. The architect, L.M.Perrott must have made the plans available for a number of builders.

The petrol station is distinctive and gorgeous – and I want to make one for my diorama collection. It would be perfect for the old model cars of the period – the Fords and Reos. 1:18 is imminently do-able, if only one could get the basic dimensions and some more detail shots. The search is on.

Up to now, research has been conducted with Google Earth – an effort made to find the original plots where the stations were sited. It’s not as easy as you’d think… 90 years time makes for a lot of knocking down and rebuilding.

Clifton Hill is gone entirely – replaced by a modern block of units – even the gasometer seen in the photo went a long time ago. It was the best way of finding the actual corner as it featured in histories of Melbourne civil services.

Hawthorn still has a petrol station on the likely site, but the buildings are so modern and scrappy as to suggest that the old station was carted away in a skip.

Malvern has a Shell station there and it looks as though there is a building on the site – re-roofed and hedged in and re-windowed and generally pulled about…but it might just be the original structure now sadly down at the back of the lot. I am hoping it is so, and will be ferreting around it when i am next in Melbourne. I’m prepared for disappointment but the chance of measuring the original dimensions will make all the difference to a good model.

Wish me luck.