Saturday 18 April 2020

Bexhill West - A diversion.....

A slightly different post for today, but I thought I'd share what I've been quietly working on in the background.

A photograph taken inside my model in which School Class 30924 HAILEYBURY is at rest.

The seaside town I live in Bexhill once had a very grand railway station and associated yard with sheds which stood as the terminus to the now disused Crowhurst to Bexhill branch line.  I should add that Bexhill still has a station which preceded Bexhill West, but that is on another line.

Quite why the new line was originally built is nowadays a mystery, as clearly there wasn't enough traffic to justify it being built.  Yet I find it intriguing, as the ambition of those who built it was tremendous.  Not only did the 3 1/2 mile line require the construction of an impressive 17 arch 460 yard long viaduct, but the station buildings and infrastructure were all beautifully designed and used impressive materials.  Clearly those promoting the line were hoping to capitalise upon the development of Bexhill as a seaside resort and they wanted their architecture and engineering to impress.

There were just three stations on the line, Crowhurst, Sidley and the terminus, which was originally called Bexhill-on-Sea.  This name changed over time, until the name Bexhill West was settled upon.

As a side project over the past few months I have been modelling some of the structures in 3D CAD and plan to build some of them as photographic dioramas.  The end goal being to  to recreate some period photos in an effort to improve both my modelling and photographic skills.  

My intention was to keep all of this under wraps until I had something worthwhile to show.  However the internet has proved to be such a good tool for connecting with like-minded others that I though I'd share some of my progress to date..

The engine shed

This structure still exists today, although it is now used as a warehouse and has had a replacement roof added.

And here's my recreation, albeit incomplete.

There is still much to do to the model.  I am yet to complete the roof structure and have to add rainwater down pipes etc. However, the basic structure is done and ready for the finer detailing.

The inside will be modeled too, complete with the chimneys and funnel system which collect the smoke from the engines.  I have copied the structural components as closely as possible, the channel sections which form the gutters to the roof valleys will discharge through the down pipes mentioned above.

The picture at the top of the post, although taken in haste, is a flavor of of the kind of photography I have in mind when this project is complete.

The Signal Box

There were two signal boxes at Bexhill West, one of which was so grand it would have looked at home at a London terminus.  However the one which caught my immediate attention was its smaller, rather oddly shaped companion.

Box no. 2 sat between two platforms and the signalman perched above and between the arriving and departing trains.

This is my recreation of the signal box.  At this stage it is  just a mock-up, as a test of the accuracy of the laser cut CAD files.  Once I had cut the pieces I used it as a test piece for painting the brick detail before starting on the engine shed above.  However, as a test piece it has worked well and I have learned just how fragile the delicate brick pieces are.  You will be able to see where some have broken away.  The brick courses are just 1mm high.

Zoomed-in, one ought to be able to see the rebated window openings to the cabin.  The final version will have etched brass frames fitted into these recesses.  

Another cruel close-up! This time of the rear of the cabin.  And the real reason for this post.
You see, I have no photographs of this signal box take from this angle, and as such I cannot be sure of what it should look like.  I have assumed the locations of these doors, and am guessing that the cabin was accessed via steps from the outside.  However it could be the case that the cabin was accessed via stairs inside.  I just don't know.

By posting this on the WWW there is a chance (albeit slight) that someone with a camera in the 1950's, with a similar fascination, might just be searching-up 'Bexhill West No 2 Signal Box'.  
If you are that person, I'd really appreciate an email! You can contact me on makeitminiature [at]

The station canopy

I am very interested in architecture, and the latticework of the station canopy impressed me with its elegance. The feeling of light and space being so well captured in this period postcard scene.  Oh, if only all structures could be built so beautifully today.

I began, as usual with a Solidworks model of a section of the canopy, my intention being to use etched brass for the ironwork.

As a test, I laser cut the components for the ironwork from 1mm MDF, and was able to use the sheet metal function in Solidworks to develop the pattern for the glazing frames, shown here test cut in card.

Finally, a sneak peek at one of the gable walls for the station building itself.  Like the engine shed, this building still exists.  A benefit of the recent lock down is that it has given me the time to 'exercise' past it and count the bricks!!

Until next time, stay safe everyone,


Friday 10 April 2020

Castle progress

I'm acutely aware that it has been quite some time since there was any update about 'our' castle.
Michael has been doing a sterling job of detailing many of the little elements which contribute to the whole, but progress with the castle itself has been somewhat out-of-sight.

There's been good reason for this but let's get going with a teaser.....

Publicly, we last saw our Tyrolean tower in December.  At which point it was a crude MDF box, with loads of potential, but very little actual progress.  When Michael and I split for the Christmas break, I took the castle with me on the promise that I would return it when the boards were complete for Michael to work his magic on the finishing touches and paintwork, etc.

The castle as it was at Christmas.  Taken from my Instagram @jameswalters160.

The Christmas period through to the end of January saw me make very little progress, a change in jobs and loss of access (at the time) to laser cutting facilities meant that I had little time to progress the job, and limited facilities also.  Once things had settled I was able to make encouraging progress, spurred on by the fantastic progress Mr Awdry had been making himself with the remaining boards.

One of the fun elements to make was the little tower.

This began with a spiral staircase inner structure...

Around which a sheet of perforated MDF was bent.

The battlements were added, and the end result was encouraging.  This would later be rendered using Vallejo earth effects paste and painted.

We have several fun elements planned for the castle interior and so each room is reasonably well detailed with window frames and wall panelling which will provide the 'studio' for our various photographic set-ups.

I am no photographer, but have developed an enthusiasm for pointing and shooting my iPhone thanks to some top tips from the boss.  The key thing Michael has shown me is that lighting can greatly affect the photographic opportunity.  With this in mind, several roof lights have been added to the structure.  These don't exist on the real castle, but will allow us to experiment with different lighting set-ups and maybe allow us to introduce a little drama with things such as elongated shadows, billowing smoke, etc.

I am so looking forward to photographing the whole Schloss Itter scene.  For me this will be the highlight of the project.

This is the same castle element, from the outside.  The roof panel under the roof lights is attached with magnets and is removable allowing the interior to be played.  In this picture the railings and final paint job are yet to be applied.

The structure above was one of my favourite parts to put together.  I've made shameful compromises from the original to suit our available playing area, however the essence of it has been captured.  I've deliberately left the staircase risers off, so that the base of a miniature can be tucked under the lip to enable them to climb the stairs.  I found a photograph of the real castle with all the staff lined up on this staircase and thought we ought to do the same with all of the delightful characters Michael has been beavering away on over at 28mmvictorialwarfare.

I have been debating  with myself whether or not to include this photo.  Clearly, the job is very unfinished at this stage, but I did want to hint at the acres of space we have to play with inside.  The view from my desk across to the beach isn't bad either!! ­čśÄ

And so, there it is. Just a quick WIP post to keep things up-to-date (sort of) and to answer the question no-one asked which was 'Have we forgotten the castle?'.

I must add that these photographs are about 6weeks old and that the castle has moved on significantly since these were taken. However, I'm hoping to keep the rest of the powder dry a little longer and will save the finished product for some future date when hopefully there can be a big reveal.  The reveal was planned for Salute, maybe another opportunity will present itself before the 2021 show.
As Michael posted recently, the full Schloss Itter is now separated across two counties and with the current lock-down cannot be reunited just yet.  

Finally, I have uploaded a couple of videos to YouTube of the build process.
Part one was the state of play in December 2019, and Part two late January.
I am not a video expert, in fact 'beginner' status would be overselling the offerings, however should you be interested do please take a look.

Until next time,


Tuesday 31 March 2020

Top Secret Nazi Dachs Werks - April 1st 2020

The past few weeks have been fraught with uncertainty, and I must admit to being a little disappointed that our opportunity to celebrate VE day at 'Salute' has been postponed for a year.  I am however very much heartened by the development of the Excel venue into the new NHS Nightingale and am hopeful for the speedy recovery of all those who it may serve.
Michael and I have been working tirelessly preparing 'Schloss Itter' for its debut which will now come much later than anticipated.  

However, today, (April 1st 2020) I can welcome all through the doors for a sneak preview into one of its darkest chambers.

In the autumn of 1942 the Nazi high command were becoming desperate.  Significant Allied gains across northern France, had progressed into areas from which V1 rockets had previously been launched with devastating effect.  As the V1's were forced to retreat, their limited range rendered them useless in pursuit of their cowardly terror attacks upon London and the south-east.  In response, the Nazi high-command began to devise schemes which might extend their shelf-life.

Unbeknown to many, indeed to history itself, Schloss Itter played host to the Nazi top secret 'Dachs Werks', a classified facility wherein the most eccentric minds of the Third Reich conceived heinous equipment with which to pursue their cause.
The V1 problem proved to be a challenge too far it would seem, as attempts to extend its range such as making the wings flap and injecting the engines with lightweight oxygen all proved futile.  
In desperation, Hitler ordered that the stockpiled weapon be readied for the ultimate defence of his Austrian stronghold wherein, and if necessary, he would be prepared to make his last stand.

As proof that fiction is often more ridiculous than fact, we can reveal some of the secrets of the Dachs Werks here today, April 1st, 2020, having uncovered some old documents from the Itter vaults.

Clearly, these archive documents detail the development of the weapon, and show how military planners were to maintain the V1's effectiveness as fuel supplies became scarce.

Some photographs from the period have survived too.

The facility was overseen ruthlessly by Katja Kitzler who reported directly to the Nazi high command. Never without her clipboard Katja was a hard task master determined to keep her team focused on the task in-hand.  So feared was she, that her colleagues set her feet in concrete to prevent her running and telling tales on them.

Wilhelm Schwarzenplunger (Billy to his friends) was the chief mechanic and artisan with the thermal lance.  It is thought that Wilhelm was a Swedish secret agent who had been working undercover for a Nazi sympathising industrialist hoping to cash-in on the reconstruction of Europe.  It is alleged that he used his spare time at the Dachs Werks to perfect automated furniture production.  
Although we may never know for sure, it is believed that many of his signature 'Billy' bookcases have found their way into homes the world over.  

Dr Ivan Fecktion, the infamous immunologist, was plagued* with a constantly streaming nose.  He was the real genius behind the Dachs Werks, until his experiment with launching a V1 using a medieval siege catapult.  During this experiment he unfortunately caught his index finger in the trigger mechanism causing a severe swelling.  After that fateful occasion he became known (behind his back) as Dr Wurstfinger.

Professor Bergen A. S. Frantz was an experimental chemist charged with developing cellulose based rocket fuel.  His 'herbology' experiments within the lab however were not appreciated by Fraulein Zimmerm├Ądchen.
On one occasion she caught him extracting cellu-oil from her prize winning mandrakes without her permission, and they never spoke again!!

Professor Frantz would occasionally moonlight as a Vet, and was often  seen in his uniform of armpit length rubber gloves.

We hope you have enjoyed this visit to the Schloss Itter Dachs Werks.  

Stay safe everyone, and take care.


*no pun intended

Monday 3 February 2020

2020 Catch-up

The past few moths have flown past, and although workbench output has been high, content to these pages has been somewhat limited.  
The weeks leading from the October school holiday through to Christmas were consumed almost entirely with progressing the baseboards for the Itter project.  As some will know, I changed jobs at Christmas and so January has been really busy on the work front settling into my new position and getting things up and running.
I'm pleased to report that whilst challenging, my new role is proving to be very rewarding, and now that the routine of working in a new school has become established I'm keen to update this humble blog with the progress I have been making across several fronts.

Firstly, an update on the Vickers Vernon, which sadly took a back seat pre-Christmas during the big push on the Castle project.  However, I have finished all the final design work, and am now in a position to cut the final wing and tail-feather parts. Hopefully we should see that situation remedied in the coming days so (fingers-crossed) the next post will show some physical progress.  I plan to make the drawings/CAD files available to whoever might find them useful and am currently investigating a suitable hosting space - but more of this in an upcoming post

In other news, whilst no longer working day-to-day with Michael, I have been popping in to see him on the occasional evening and the progress he is making with the Itter terrain is incredible.  I've just enjoyed his last post and can confirm all is in fact even more superb in the flesh, as it were.  
During these visits we have discussed several scenic items which will help tell the story of the battle.
I include my works-in-progress below to give a flavor of what I've been up to.

The first item will be an Inn.  Michael was keen to give an illusion of the castle's proximity to the village of Itter, which although is very close to the Castle approach is sadly too far away to fit onto our boards.  Therefore, just one building will be modeled, atop the hill on the castle approach.
Not having space to recreate a full-size replica of the inn at Itter, I have opted for a more modest affair based upon a photo of an Austrian chalet found on the internet.

These pictures show the basic design, which when complete will have a full interior.

Here is the hastily painted prototype, still not finished, but giving a good representation of what the final outcome might look like.  Michael has lots of plans for this structureand I can't wait to see it finally in place on the castle boards.

Next up, Michael was keen to include a mini saw mill within the tabletop, as an added feature which I'm sure will add an extra element to the game play, if only as cover for the SS in their attempt to storm the castle.  Looking for inspiration I found this image of Birkkarh├╝tte on the internet. 

Thinking it might make a useful woodsman's hut, I set about recreating a smaller version complete with some suitable paraphernalia. Although sadly not the kiddies bicycle!

I'm on the look-out for a suitable stationary engine to power the saw bench - which may end-up being a project in itself.

And so to my final piece for today's post.  
Within the woods which surrounded Schloss Itter there was an electrical transformer or substation, the exact details of which are unknown to us.  We do know however that there was a machine gun nest nearby, possibly within it and Michael was keen that we recreate this element.
Not knowing quite what such a thing might look like, but being mindful that it should be instantly recognisable for what it is, I have come up with this.  Hopefully some insulators, paint and suitable 'Achtung!' flashes will help with the illusion.
Yes it's probably a little industrial for the location and period, but when complete I am sure will be weathered down and blended in with Michael's usual skill.  

And here is a collective shot of my output for this last week.  The side wall of the inn looks at though it's about to fall over!  At this stage the building hasn't been glued together and is all just balancing. 
There's still much to do, but hopefully these works-in-progress whet the appetite just a little.
I'll show some more progress, and hopefully a picture or two of these pieces in position just as soon as I get the chance and maybe delve a little deeper into the details of each piece.



*** STOP PRESS ***

I'd written this post earlier today, and have now just returned from visiting Michael, and have had the chance of some in-situ photography.  So here's a little treat of one of the installations...

Wednesday 18 December 2019

The making of the Castle Itter Christmas Card

With thoughts of the end of the school term, and the seasonal winding down of work related activities, Michael and I turned our thoughts towards yet another distraction.  This time something suitably festive for the blog.  Naturally, it needed to be related to the ongoing castle project, and as we had a spare gatehouse, the concept quickly established itself!

Merry Christmas everyone!

To begin our festive scene, a suitable plywood base was found to which an MDF base for the scene was fitted.  The gaps were filled with expanding foam which was carved to shape and finished with a generous smear of decorators caulk.
Some BIC pen tubes were added for the tree trunks which were suitably 'enhanced' with some Vallejo earth texture paste.

The addition of some 'Awdry' patent trees helped to fill the scene.  Michael has become quite adept at making these, I'm sure we'll be treated to a write-up soon.

Some reindeer were corralled, and all seemed been going well until someone forgot the safety catch!

However, keen to make progress, we disguised the deceased reindeer by firmly affixing them into the upright position on some sticks, Harnessing them with painted masking tape and some red thread from Michael's sewing box. 

At this stage we had become a little overwhelmed with the static grass, and so called in the heavy plant to help clear the mess.  A 28mm bobcat, (I think it's the best thing on the internet!)

After some initial reluctance, the reindeer were harnessed to the Sherman. 
Upon learning to work as a team, they enjoyed some skiing across the bridge.
Finally, he elements for the photo-shoot were assembled together with some nicely painted resin gifts.  

All had been going well until, there was an unfortunate Green on Red incident in the lead-up to the photoshoot.

Then an inundation of heavy snowfall threatened the whole affair.  So once again the Bobcat was pressed into service....

...and Mr Awdry kindly donated his cape, which made a most useful backdrop.
And thus the scene was set...

The Fieseller Storch being a  totally unnecessary but fun addition.

Merry Christmas everyone!!, and a big thank you to all who have followed and supported our project.

Finally, I couldn't think of a caption for this photograph.  Suggestions in the comments?