Building a model railway, part 0: our old railway

As I write this, we’re on our all-too-brief summer holiday.  (This year I only get a week with the family, as I have two palaeontology conferences later this year that eat up too much of my annual leave.)  We’re taking the time at home this year, to avoid all the packing-and-travel hassle, and spending part of the time building a model railway.

Here’s one we made earlier:

We built this one in 2004ish, when we were still living in north central London and longing to move out to the countryside.  It was really an expression of that longing, and that comes through in the very English-village feel of the model.  It’s all farmhouses, village greens, parish churches and cricket pitches (though we never did get around to painting and installing actual cricketers).

[An aside: as an actual sport, I find cricket pretty boring.  But I love the idea of village cricket: a lazy game that you half-watch in the sunshine while drinking real ale from the adjacent pub, chatting with friends to the pleasantly ignorable sound of leather on willow, and the occasional polite ripple of subdued applause.  Cricket as lifestyle rather than as game.]

Here’s a close-up of the village pub next to the as-yet unpopulated cricket pitch, just behind the railway station.  (Another TODO is making the pub sign, but it’ll come in time.)

But without question my favourite part of the layout is the farm toward the back on the left.  I spent a lot of time on the four buildings around the courtyard that make up the farm complex, bringing out textures and suggesting weathering using dry brush.

And from another angle:

Here’s the farmhouse itself in close-up:

And from the back:

(By the way, I notice that the filename of one of these photos is DSCN9996.JPG, which means I am only four photos short of rolling over the ten-thousand shot file-naming convention on my camera.  It’s pretty amazing to think I’ve taken ten thousand photos since I bought it about six years ago; but then the beauty of digital is that you can take two or three shots of each composition and throw away all but the best one.)

So anyway, that’s the old model railway, which we made in 2004ish.  Now we’re making a new one — in part with the intention that it should be possible to link it up with the old one, and let our trains follow a long path that goes through both.  Next time I’ll post some of the sketches that I drew in trying to figure out how to make that work, then we’ll start to look at the actual construction process.

6 responses to “Building a model railway, part 0: our old railway

  1. How are the buildings constructed? Solid wood and carved/cut to fit, with painting and texturing? Or wall-by-wall out of balsa (or some other pliable wood)? Or do you buy walls/kits from a craft store?

    My grandfather was very fond of building trainsets up; when he passed, he left to me just a few of my favourite cars. I forget the scale, but pretty small .. each car being a few inches long and say an inch across, but I’ll have to fetch them out someday to mewasure them.

    As a kid, we built up electric traqinset and glued it (to my dads dismay) to the green velvet surface of his billiards table; it seemed an ideal place!

    Strikes me a pretty fine hobby to take on for a few months when my kids get older (7? 8? 10? whats the skill level; for this sort of thing?) .. but who knows if they will be interested.

    One of my goals for parenting is to ensure my kids want to read, and to toinker; to take apart, to build, to hack on things. Strikes me that is a very significant life interest/skill .. do not ever be afraid to take somethign apart, even if the label says not (unless chemicals inside.. don’t let the magic geenie out on the floor..)

  2. I’m afraid we don’t build from scratch: we use Kestrel plastic kits are enhance as needed. But for the current project I want to make an n-scale model of our own house, and that may very well need to be done from scratch. I’ll post about it if/when it happens.

  3. Ha ha ha, I like how you make-up for the lack of sushi photos through that HUGE plate at the end :)

  4. Pingback: Building a model railway, part 1: planning the layout | The Reinvigorated Programmer

  5. Pingback: Building a model railway, part 2: | The Reinvigorated Programmer

  6. Pingback: We’re selling our model railway | The Reinvigorated Programmer

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