Tranquility Baseboard - the end of the beginning

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D-day has approached, appeared briefly in our midst and is now receding at the steady rate of 24 hours a day. Five, a mere five, modules were sufficiently near finished to be presented by their owners at the SMRS exhibition. Due to a minor administrative oversight, they were exhibited in a manner not conducive to their full glory. Nonetheless they attracted considerable attention, not least by the deputy mayor, who had the honour of judging a winner. I did not expect mine to trouble the scorers, and was therefore not disappointed. And no, I haven’t cracked the sweepy-swirly problem yet.



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At the exhibition review meeting last Friday, Phase Two was subsequently authorised. This will involve construction of run-round loops at either end of hopefully the full dozen modules, arranged in an L-shape, the whole to be exhibited next year in a suitably-enhanced position. I have volunteered to act as project coordinator, and have already identified a managing contractor. Or should that be a contract manager?



Getting there, wherever there is

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Getting closer to being finished, for a given value of ‘finished’, that is. The two biggest challenges remain, sorting out the sky and getting the model gravel to behave. Whether sweeping swirls are possible in 4mm is problematical at the moment; early trials were not encouraging. Just as well there’s a good six weeks to get it done. The stepping stones look OK. Still thinking about the front edge, and whether to try some Japanese script on the back wall.




Three months and counting


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June already, and progress has suffered as the garden railway has taken priority, making use of any dry weather to complete the dual-gauging. Made a to-do list, though.

Not convinced about the fence (yet), may try a wall or just some edging.

The loco is a visItor from the Geisha Western Railway.




Easter blessings

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Traditional Easter weather has, so far at least, discouraged much activity of the going-out variety. The staying-in type has therefore benefited, with some useful advances in model-making. TB is starting to look a bit like it was intended to, with the rear wall, tea-house entrance and steps added, the track ballasted and the rock walls at either end given an initial paint.

In the spirit of conservation, not to mention economy, the paint used for this last operation was what came to hand, namely grey enamel as undercoat and black drainpipe as topcoat. An unlikely combination, but I've used worse, and had worse results.

Big Sky

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The first problem - what to do with a lot of grey plywood. To someone used to modelling in garden scales it represents little more than the height of a single-storey building. Here it suddenly becomes many feet of vertical dimension. The solution, for the time being at least, was to turn most of it into sky. The ends could include rock faces once some portals were fitted to the track apertures. I experimented with bamboo for these, resisting the temptation to revert to my Chinese, or rather ex-pat British, supplier for some neat-looking grecian-style columns. Despite the discount offered, they wouldn't quite fit the style.

The Collection

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All good modellers, and most of us indifferent ones, collect stuff. One never knows when some odd bit of wood, plastic or metal might be just the thing to adorn a layout currently under construction. In this case a few stones picked up off the road (a Roman road, just to be posh) and some bits of wood laminate were carefully hoarded for the start of the project. Also a chance discovery on eBay led to the purchase of some genuine Chinese lions, made from genuine Chinese plastic. All was set, one just had to get on it with it.

Hand-out, for a fee

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March 7th was the official hand-out day, when the blank baseboards were released to a breathless membership and building could begin. There was a small matter of a monetary deposit to be negotiated, to ensure no-one absconded with a board for purposes other than model-building, or accepted one without a full assessment of the modelling commitment they were entering into (into which they were entering?). We are promised that the money is fully refundable on production of the finished article come September. And our treasurer, as we all know, is an honourable man.

First steps

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A full architect’s drawing was prepared, not on a drawing board but on the London to Liverpool train, which obligingly supplied a wavy component to any straight lines that were attempted. A Zen gardening book, bought with my own money from Foyle’s Charing Cross Road emporium, provided a number of ideas, many of which would not fit in the limited space available. Fortunately a few seemed as though they might, so the capital investment was not entirely wasted.

Bamboo seemed to feature heavily in the book’s pictures, and I wondered if I might have to either grow my own or perhaps acquire a suitable bonsai version. However my local Poundland bargain store came up with a ‘bamboo spiral decoration’ which, gaudy colours notwithstanding, looked to provide promising and not-too-overscale raw material.

Zen and the art of railway maintenance

Perhaps surprisingly, the membership invoked a mutual security blanket, with each jealously guarding their own concept, ready for a triumphant revealing of their handiwork on the day of the exhibition. Or possibly just before, as a trial run at a neutral venue would seem a wise precaution. Not so this competitor, who is so confident of success that he is not afraid of sharing it with the masses right from the beginning. Or perhaps he has caught a glimpse of the prize, and is quite content not to trouble the judges to any significant extent.

The idea of a Japanese Zen garden came about from a combination of two factors, my affinity for garden railways and a realisation that the main constituents were gravel and rocks, which could be readily represented with one of the finer grades of model ballast, and odd bits of pebble.

A good idea and its time



This is an account of the webmaster's participation in the Modular Layout Grand Plan.