Aethelhurst station has been laid down at last. Platform two has been constructed over a week’s worth of evenings out of the excellent Metcalfe platform kits and is looking quite splendid.
The only thing that really marred this achievement was the fact that I couldn’t also construct platform one before I lost the use of the downstairs coffee table once my Dad and our Dog got back. I was hoping to get any railside structures on the layout built and placed so that I could lay the layout on the coffee table and thus have an undisturbed space to let the scenic glue set; I have no such room in my bedroom apart from the bed, and given that even something as lightweight as a cat can make sleeping uncomfortable for the occupant, I doubt I’ll be able to nod off with a layout on my lap.
In addition, thanks to my prior cowardice when it comes to weathering the track, I am now faced with the very real possibility of failing my 2018 New Years Resolution and extending the construction period of Timeslides into 2019. This got me thinking…
What does “complete” even mean?
The one thing that has to be understood about any creative project is that there really is no objective concept of “complete”. Anyone who doubts this can ask an art expert about Richard Dadd, the infamous Broadmoor Painter. The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke – widely considered to be his most important work – was never considered finished by it’s creator despite being worked on for nine years! There are apparently parts of the painting that are layered so much that they actually pop out of the canvas in the third dimension.
With this in mind, it makes sense for me to actually define what I consider to be a complete layout; Generally-speaking, for Timeslides to be complete, both scenes have to be fully recognisable as a preservation-era Station and a run-down goods yard. Simple enough, but let’s take this from a project-management standpoint and define specific tasks that need to be done:
- Both stations are complete with enough detail for viewers to know their names and the contexts in which they exist, with Aethelhurst being the preservation-era station, while the second station is set to be called Eadley Halt, situated just outside the goods yard as a simple wooden platform about 15 metres (99mm in real terms) long.
- All visible areas of track are ballasted, and all points work afterwards.
- All scenery is constructed, with any hills being formed, painted and detailed.
- Scatter is laid on the layout wherever needed.
- The hill overlooking Aethelhurst station has at least a few trees overlooking the site.
This should give us a presentable, if basic, layout to aspire to.
Chocolate-Block Connectors: Trading one hell for another
There is something I need to get off my chest before we proceed to view the platform: Working with chocolate block connectors is a lot more fiddly than I expected:
What you see here is the reworking of the wiring under the goods yard into a more presentable and flexible state than it was previously, replacing bad soldering with the aforementioned connectors. The troubles began upon discovering that the thinner wire that had worked so well for soldering was an absolute nightmare to locate under the screws, so I reverted to thicker wire which meant ripping out all the soldering done previously. Oh well, it was a rubbish job anyway.
Now that the screws can actually grip the wire, you’d think things would be as straightforward as shoving them in and screwing them down, right? Nope. If you want to insert two wires into a single terminal (which you have to do if you want even a basically-sophisticated setup), you’ll need to unsheath a longer length than you’ll think you need (about 1cm in the case of the Peco blocks used here), try to intermesh them as much as possible and – taking care not to let the strands of wire stab your fingers – twist them as much as you can before carefully inserting them and screwing them in as far as possible.
Even then, it’s not an easy job especially when you’ve got many to do. Still, rant over, and if it saves frustration for just one modeller it would be worth it.
Building the platforms may well have been a long and semi-frustrating process, but it wasn’t without it’s highlights. In a truly exciting moment for me as a modeller, I was able to mock up Aethelhurst station and get a first glimpse of what it would eventually look like:
Necessarily lopsided on account of the fact that Platform Two is cut off near the baseboard edge, the station still looks the part. I am especially proud of an idea I had when siting the Sweet Shop; placing it in between the station building and the subway allows the prospective businessman to capture customers going to/from both Platforms One and Two, effectively doubling his potential customer base.
As revealing as this moment was, it still couldn’t escape my attention that the platforms were on the deck; typical heritage railway carriages don’t come with step access, and I don’t have the luxury of claiming that some American businessman bought the station and transported it brick-by-brick to some ranch in Texas, thus we need to build the walls underneath the platform surface.
Overall, the Metcalfe Platform Kits can be fiddly to assemble, especially when the platform curves (which, being a freeform kit, the modeller inevitably will want it to). The instructions are as clear and precise as they ever were, however, which is a relief for a kit that won’t have a definite final form.
One tip I can share with you is to choose your adhesives wisely. The platform walls come as a single piece of card folded up to produce a double-thick wall, so the use of contact adhesive works wonders; apply and spread it on both sides, wait around four minutes for the glue to get tacky, and then press the sides together along the length of the wall to get an instantly useable part. For any other assembly jobs it is generally best to stick with the recommended UHU adhesive, as that permits some adjustment while not taking too long to settle.
The end result was a truly superb-looking platform with enough length to accommodate a train of four typical heritage coaches and the locomotive. I was so pleased with it that I unboxed my prized heritage train of the Q1 and Maunsell Coaches to model it for a photo:
Until next time…