Weathering Tutor Chris Hopper’s layout on the cover and inside the December 2021 issue of Railway Modeller.

Missenden Weathering Tutor Chris Hopper has just had an article about his latest small exhibition layout “Penmaenbach” published in the December 2021 Railway Modeller. He describes how attending a course at Missenden helped in the development of the layout.

I readily admit that although I had made good progress, building the Grainge and Hodder laser cut boards and laying and wiring up the new PECO Bullhead OO track, this layout was then a little “neglected” for some time. I’m sure many Railway Modellers suffer similar losses of momentum on their projects but I was lucky enough to attend the 2019 Missenden Railway Modellers’ Summer Retreat as a retirement present and this meant that I had a real opportunity to make progress on the layout in a very pleasant location with excellent catering, good company and a well-stocked bar. 

CH1The week needed careful planning and preparation in advance to ensure that I got as much as possible out of the time and that I had all the tools, references and bits I needed to hand but the week went well and was a great opportunity to make progress. 

I painted the track using Phoenix Weathered Sleeper and Rusty Rails colours and a cess was added with Busch ash heavily toned down with the real thing from a log burner.

Once dry the track was ballasted with a mix of Woodland Scenics Fine and Greenscenes ballast fixed with PVA directly to the shoulders and then the rest laid dry and then fixed with dilute Matt Medium dropped from a pipette onto the ballast after a spray of “wet water” to break down any surface tension. This is a fiddly job but well worth the effort. My favourite tool is a tee-spoon to both distribute the dry ballast and tap the rails to encourage the ballast to settle off neatly the sleepers.

CH2The whole thing was then over-sprayed outside using a light buff/grey enamel paint mix in an airbrush. This had the effect of toning everything down and blurring any sharp edges between colours.

I had already roughly cut out some landscape forms from 50mm insulating foam so these were trimmed to fit around the bridges etc and then covered with ready-mixed filler with added earth coloured paint. 

These were finished off at the bench and only fixed in place when the layout was nearly complete. A combination of Gorilla Glue (the water activated version) and cocktail sticks set into holes in the baseboard surface helped hold everything in place.

CH3 I had almost finished the various overbridges and retaining wall before the week using various plastic products including Slater’s stone sheets, Micro-Engineering (US HO) plate girders, Evergreen strip, scratch-built girders and some Wills brick work. At Missenden I was able to spend some time painting these to match – as well as I could – the stone work in various colour photos I had of bridges on the North Wales main line around locations such as Abergele and Llandudno Junction. I had already been impressed by the work done by Karl Crowther on the stonework on his Hebble Vale Goods EM layout in an article in Model Railway Journal so I tried to follow his methods. I’m quite pleased with the way the stonework turned out.

I had made a platform carcass for the “main” line from some thin bass word. The platform front would not usually be visible but I finished the front with brick paper and prepared a top surface with stone flag edging and an ash surface. Road surfaces were templated with paper and then cut from Daler mounting board and I also constructed some background structures.

Working with a group of fellow-modellers was also a great opportunity to get the self-adhesive photographic backscene fitted. I think it took 3 or 4 of us to do it properly.

CH4I also prepared a front profile fascia and started a lighting pelmet using 3mm birch ply.

The week was a few years before I took on a tutor role myself and I was helped enormously by the resident tutors Barry Norman and Tony Gee as well of course by my fellow weathering enthusiast – the late Mick Bonwick. 

I was very pleased with the experience I had and the work I did at Missenden and once back home carried on with various jobs to maintain progress as I was hoping to exhibit the layout in the first half of 2020. But as we all know that’s another story…