Of rocks and grass

Right, enough posting about holidays, time to report some modelling!

Recently I’ve done some more work on the scenics on Isle Ornsay. I’ve agreed to take the layout to the Tonbridge club’s 2014 exhibition more completed than it is now, but only at one end so that punters can see how a layout develops as it’s completed. The pier end will be largely completed whilst the end at the tunnel will remain in the state it is now, and the area in between will be…. somewhere in between.

To this end I’ve started working on the pier board and have finished colouring the rocks, the stone wall and begun adding some static grass.

A while ago I gave the rocks a coat of acrylic paints, I used the colours below to enable me to subtly vary the colours across the castings from the Bragdon Enterprise moulds.


These washes were applied until I was happy with the colouring, which looked like this…


… then a black and yellow band was added to represent the staining caused by rising and falling tidal waters…


And that was that. Or so I thought, as the paint used for the rocks dried out it took on a more and more blueish tinge (note – use MUCH thinner washes of Payne’s Grey than the other colours to avoid this!), so I became less and less happy with the results. Eventually I put the board back up in the loft and forgot about it for a bit (sulked).

After the recent trips to Wales and Scotland, and more than my fair share of encouragement on NGRM, my modelling enthusiasm was high, so I decided to solve the problem of the blueness of the rocks. Daniel Caso, a contributor to NGRM, has often referred to using pastels in his modelling, I liked the idea of this, almost using them as weathering powders on the rocks to achieve the results I wanted. But, I wanted something more controllable, so after a bit of googling I came across these:


Derwent pastel pencils. They’re superb, precise to control (being pointed), able to tint coloured surfaces well, and possible to buy either in sets or individually.

The results that can be achieved with these being applied over an acrylic base layer are superb, and look very subtle and lifelike. They’re easy to control and can be smudged together to blend colours in smoothly. You’ll no doubt have spotted the the grass in the photo (and probably the neighbour’s out of scale extension), more on that in a mo…

The same technique was then applied to the walls of the pier. A base coat of grey (approximately 50/50 payne’s grey and raw umber) was brushed undiluted into the cracks between the stone blocks to represent shadows.


Whilst this first layer was wet, a further mix (with slightly more raw umber in) was applied to add further variation to the base layer, to which the pencils were then used to adjust the colours of individual stones to suit.


I’m really pleased with the results achieved with these pencils, they’re easy to work with and it is possible to get great results in a controllable way.


And so to the grass. I had heard good things about the Polak range of static grasses, so I placed an order with Modeller’s Warehouse for some of the test packs they offer.

As you can see, I ordered a variety of colours and lengths of grass to help blend things together and get a non-uniform covering.


These were then put into the Green Scene ‘Flock it’ static grass applicator that my wife bought me for my birthday earlier in the year, and I set to the layout, applying several coats to get some variation in length and colour.



There’s still some more work to do in blending the edges of the colours together a bit better, but I’m pleased with the way it’s heading for a first attempt at this technique.

Next steps for the quay will be to add the timber uprights for ships to moor against, these will be made from 5mm square section balsa carved to shape with a scalpel, and stained using an acrylic wash. I’ll also be trying a technique mentioned to me by Jeff Bisonette that uses feathers to represent seaweed. I bought a couple of bargain packs of feathers to experiment with at Hobbycraft recently, one brown and one green.


I’m not 100% sure on how to tackle these yet, but I’ll do a test on a spare bit of wall before applying them to the layout.

Whilst on Skye last month I nabbed a bit of dead heather to make a small tree on the headland. I don’t normally think heather makes amazing trees, but dear reader, it seems apt to use a piece of heather from the trackbed of the only steam operated railway line on the Isle of Skye, doesn’t it? So here it is before pruning and altering to suit…


An idea I’m unashamedly pinching from the Corkscrew Lines blog is ‘this month’s arrivals’, updates on things I’ve wasted spent my money on recently. Here are the most recent purchases, aside from the materials that have already been mentioned in this post:


This time, three rather nice books. Top left is the very heavy (physically, not literally) ‘Welsh Highland Railway  Renaissance’, a very detailed account of the recreation of the WHR C up to the point where it was running back through ‘Town’, and joined up with the FR.

Top right is ‘The Lynton & Barnstaple Railway – Measured & Drawn’, if you ever want drawings of something on the L&B, this is the book for you! It contains drawings of lineside features too, which has already had an impact on some of the things I was considering for the yard of Isle Ornsay.

Finally at the bottom, and the most recent addition, is the track book produced by the 2mm Finescale association. Whilst they work to 9.42mm gauge, not the 9mm of 009, a lot of the content seems useful and very thorough. It will definitely be a good point of reference for when I eventually take the plunge and try building my own trackwork.

We may be moving soon, so you might not have to look at that horrific carpet too many more times…!

Next update, I’ll hopefully be able to report on either some more colour being added to the layout, or some waves!


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6 Responses to Of rocks and grass

  1. geoff52 says:

    An excellent and informative post Tom, I can see myself trying some of your techniques and will be rushing out to buy some of those pastel pencils.

    The whole layout is developing nicely and is one of the most convincing narrow gauge projects that I have seen for a while.


    • Tom says:

      Thanks Geoff, that’s very kind. Give them a go, you’ll enjoy them!

      I’m continuing to read your blog too, although I’ve not commented for some time, I’m enjoying reading about your new project in it’s formative stages!

  2. Jamie Wood says:

    Rocks look fabulous, much like my favourite bit of rocky coastline nearer home. Though until you do that next bit, it’s a bit ‘Hebrides meets white cliffs of Dover’ 🙂

    PS. intrigued by the feathers…

    • Tom says:

      Thanks Jamie, I’m really pleased with them. Blending in with the next board’s colouring will be fun!

      I’m intrigued by the feathers too, not tried them before, and there seems to be no information on them online… Worth trying though.

  3. Hi Tom
    having lurked for some time I just wanted to say it is starting to look really interesting. I like that the layout has a researched context. Reminds me of the Helford Valley Railway. Re modelling rocks and the sea, have you seen Troels Kirk’s The Coast Line? It’s Maine 2′ in On30 and has some of the best sea/shoreline modelling I’ve seen. http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Coast-Line-RR-page/127409483958090

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