Cessy-en-Bois: Une petite gare de triage

Discussion in 'Layout Progress' started by chrisb, 11 June 2018.

  1. chrisb

    chrisb Western Thunderer

    A modified Classic Inglenook (5-3-3) shunting puzzle layout in HO (1:87 scale) based somewhere in south-eastern France in the early 1970s.


    I've long wanted a shunting puzzle layout and the competition provided the impetus to build one. Inspiration came from Ree Modeles' impressive ready-to-run models:


    and “Le Dépôt de Poinzéraut”, a stunning HO scale model of a motive power depot located near Dijon built by Francois Dubois:

    Before starting to build the layout, however, I had some requirements that needed to be tested first - namely unobtrusive automatic couplings and dynamic ambient lighting and sound...
    Last edited: 12 June 2018
  2. chrisb

    chrisb Western Thunderer

    So, unobtrusive automatic couplings...

    The Ree models come with NEM coupler pockets on a close coupling mechanism and Roco-style couplers that work extremely well but they're pretty ugly and highly visible as you can see:
    especially when compared with scale screw link couplings:

    Given I don't want/can't have a manual method for coupling/uncoupling the stock, I investigated some alternatives - specifically Alex Jackson and Sprat & Winkle. The Sprat & Winkle couplings worked reliably but I found them a little too obtrusive. I liked the minimal appearance of the AJ couplings very much but found them very hard to fit partly due to the large amount of underframe detail on the Ree models and partly due to my ham-fistedness.

    Luckily I found an article on a simplified AJ-type coupling by Vincent de Bode (MRJ 123) that seemed to fit the bill and some experimentation confirmed this type of coupling would fit my needs perfectly.

    The components required include very fine guitar string (1st/0.008) from Amazon, HO scale etched screw link couplings from AMF, Alan Gibson 4mm scale long handrail knobs and 0.56mm soft iron wire from Eileen's Emporium:

    The following photographs hopefully demonstrate how the couplings are assembled and fitted:



    And the end result - very unobtrusive and easily and reliably uncoupled using a magnet fixed beneath the track (video to follow):
  3. Yorkshire Dave

    Yorkshire Dave Western Thunderer

    Interesting couplers. I wonder if nylon fishing line (which would be invisible) could be used instead of wire between the buffers if it was taut.

    Impressive rolling stock. Is it all ETAT and PO or a mixture of all of the French pre nationalisation companies?
  4. Richard H

    Richard H Western Thunderer

    Chris - thanks! - I've been fretting about couplings on a shunting layout, and I think you may have solved my coupling problems with this post,
  5. chrisb

    chrisb Western Thunderer

    It's a mixture - Ree do a good job, I think, of making multiple variations of the same prototype and in different liveries for various time periods as you can see here. I'm settling on a slightly vague time period (epoch III-IV) although there shouldn't be many visual clues other than the rolling stock itself so I should have a bit of flexibility to run a wider range of stock later on if I want.

    As Vincent de Bode explains in his article, his couplings have limitations but I think for a shunting layout they're well worth considering.
    Last edited: 15 June 2018
  6. chrisb

    chrisb Western Thunderer

    Because of the way I've built the baseboard and back scene (more on that later) I need to complete the scenery at the rear of the layout first. This will include retaining walls and rocky outcrops primarily to get a lot of height at the rear of the layout without sacrificing a lot of depth (given the baseboard is only 0.3m/1ft deep.)

    I've not modelled rock since cork bark was considered state of the art so I needed to experiment with some more modern techniques and I've settled on using Hydrocal plaster with rock moulds such as those from Woodland Scenics and Noch. This test piece was painted with Tamiya acrylics (XF-19 Sky grey, XF-55 Deck tan, XF-57 Buff, XF-59 Desert yellow, XF-68 NATO brown), given a coat of Vallejo Model Wash 76.517 Dark grey and then dry-brushed with Tamiya XF-2 Flat white:

    The gorse bushes in the foreground are another experiment with Magigras from Microrama (more on that later too.)
    Last edited: 15 June 2018
  7. adrian

    adrian Flying Squad

    That's pretty damn impressive - I had to do a double take to make sure what I was looking at. Is that straight out of the moulds or is there a little additional sculpting?
  8. Dikitriki

    Dikitriki Flying Squad

    The rock is excellent indeed, both in the basic structure and the colouring - probably the best I've seen:thumbs:

  9. chrisb

    chrisb Western Thunderer

    Thank you for the kind words and likes.

    It's straight out of the mould - all I had to do was run a dry brush over the surface to remove any little bits of plaster that had come loose.
    allegheny1600, 3 LINK and adrian like this.
  10. chrisb

    chrisb Western Thunderer

    Dynamic ambient lighting, another requirement...

    This all started when I came across Vikas Chandler's layout lighting website - incredibly serious and sophisticated, well beyond anything I could attempt but a seed was sown and I decided to investigate LED lightstrips (and RGBW LED lightstrips in particular) that can be controlled using an Arduino board:

    Each 'lamp' in the RGBW lightstrip is made up of 4 LEDS - one red, one green, one blue and one white - that can be addressed or controlled individually (not just on/off but also brightness) meaning it's possible to display over 16million colours and by using an Arduino board to control each LED it's possible to create dynamic effects - an excellent series of examples can be found here.

    For the most part these effects are too garish for layout lighting but dramatically slowed to be nearly imperceptible some of the effects are extremely subtle and just what I wanted.

    Unfortunately it's hard to demonstrate with a short video and a time lapse sequence rather negates the subtlety but once the layout gets more established I should be able to demonstrate at least some of the effects here.
  11. Steve Cook

    Steve Cook Flying Squad

    Great stuff Chris, there are lots of things to like about your approach and subject. I'm particularly impressed by the Ree wagons too, especially when fitted with the new couplers.

    I'll be interested to see how the layout copes with having 5 tracks across its comparatively narrow width at one point (well, technically between two points, but you get my drift), I suspect that being 3.5mm rather than 4mm will help with rolling stock on the track.
  12. allegheny1600

    allegheny1600 Western Thunderer

    Hi Chris,
    This is looking superb already! Those REE models are sweet, aren't they?
    I'm glad to see another follower of Vikas on here, he's one clever chap.
    Good luck with this,
  13. chrisb

    chrisb Western Thunderer

    Thank you for the kind comments and likes.

    I was worried about this as I always find it hard to resist trying to squeeze just a little bit extra in. So, I originally planned to firmly limit the track plan to a standard 5-3-3 Inglenook but, after spending a lot of time playing around with various configurations, I came up with something that I hope is uncluttered:
    [The base as shown is slightly narrower than it will be once finally installed - the rear edge (which is on the left of the photo) will abut against a separate scenic strip on which I've mounted retaining walls and the rocky outcrops I mentioned in an earlier post. It's just a lot easier to work on this strip without having to stretch across the track work.]
    Last edited: 24 June 2018
    JasonBz, Captain Kernow and 76043 like this.
  14. 76043

    76043 Western Thunderer

    Can I ask how thick your blue foam is?
  15. chrisb

    chrisb Western Thunderer

    I won't dwell a lot on the baseboards. I've used Tim Horn's 5ft x 1ft full scenic photo box with additional 2ft x 1ft baseboard (for the storage sidings/traverser) all of which went together quickly and easily.

    I particularly wanted a seamless, arching backscene having been fascinated by the tent-inspired method of using a fabric cloth for the seemingly endless sky on Martin Stringer's Tollesbury Quay layout (MRJ 246). But after a lot of fruitless experimentation with various materials (including heat-shrinkable polyester fabric) I settled on something more rigid - blue foam and depron sheets suitably shaped, filled, sanded and then painted pale blue:
  16. chrisb

    chrisb Western Thunderer

    It's 50mm thick (both the track base and the shaped pieces for the backscene.)

    (And while I'm at it the depron is 3mm thick.)
    76043 likes this.
  17. chrisb

    chrisb Western Thunderer

    Anxious to get the track base in place, I've been working on the scenery strip at the rear of the layout which, as mentioned above, includes retaining walls and rocky outcrops.

    The retaining walls were built up from foam board and faced with laser-engraved 'feuille de pierres hexagonales' from Decapod. Quoins and drainage pipes were made up using cartridge paper and lengths of thin brass tube:
    IMG_9382.jpg IMG_9384.jpg

    The walls were painted and weathered with Tamiya acrylics (XF-55 Deck tan, XF-57 Buff, XF-59 Desert yellow, XF-68 NATO brown) followed with Vallejo Model Wash 76.517 Dark grey and then installed onto the base board with the rocky outcrops:

    The black, rubbery areas are pieces of Magigras which were created by covering the walls and outcrops with cling film and then applying the Magigras resin which, once dry, were removed and trimmed to shape prior to applying static grass.

    Here's the end result, after applying the static grass and leaves (from Microrama): IMG_9457.jpg
    Last edited: 29 June 2018
  18. chrisb

    chrisb Western Thunderer

    So, a deep breath today as I started to add some clouds to the arching backscene...

    After a very pleasant afternoon, about half the scene is finished:

    I experimented with a lot of different techniques (fingers, natural sponge, stencils and spray paint, etc.) but in the end I opted for something very straightforward.

    First, Titanium white (Windsor & Newton Water Mixable Oil Colour) was roughly brushed on with a cheap #2 filbert tip paintbrush:

    and then the whole area was blended with a very soft dry brush (nothing fancy, a Diall 1/2" general purpose paintbrush from B&Q):
  19. Heather Kay

    Heather Kay Western Thunderer

    Those clouds are superb. Excellent work! :thumbs:
  20. Yorkshire Dave

    Yorkshire Dave Western Thunderer

    Massif Central or Jura?

    The backscene looks good :thumbs:. It's nice to see the deeper blue sky at the top then fading towards the horizon.

    From the photos it's also apparent the scenery and trackwork towards the rear of the layout will not cast any shadows on the backscene once the lighting is in place - I presume this was part of the development and design?

    As for the lighting strip itself will this be mounted directly to the 'ceiling' or will you angle it inwards slightly to project onto the sky? Does the lighting strip tell you the angle of light dispersion e.g. 30 deg, 60 deg - apologies I don't know the technical term for this.

    Only asking as I experimented with LED lighting strip on a guitar case shunting layout and found I needed to angle it in by 10 to 20 deg. This was a temporary set up as I subsequently re-engineered the arms with central joints to enable the lighting strip to fold back into the case scissors fashion.
    LED lighting 1 colour corrected.jpg