Alpha Mill

Outside the fence.
ralphrobertson
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Alpha Mill

Postby ralphrobertson » Thu Apr 26, 2018 12:47 pm

One of the things about a forum is how people are prepared to share their knowledge and we were very fortunate to post a photo of the mill we intended making for the Slattocks Junction layout of the Manchester Area Group.https://www.scalefour.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=73&t=853&start=53 The photo which can be seen on the Area Group forum proved that we had not done our research and were swiftly pointed in the right direction by Howard Bolton who clearly knows an awful lot about cotton mills.

After being presented with a list of mills that would be appropriate for our location and a preliminary drawing of the type of mill we should be looking at we were inspired by what was on offer. Howard suggested that rather than trying to make the back of the mill we should model a side and the side which has an engine house was particularly interesting given that there were lots of features that could be modelled.

Slattocks mirror.jpg
Howard's suggested mill wall for Slattocks


When we saw this drawing we were immediately taken by the style of the building, it was a lot more interesting than what we had planned which was simply a building with lots of windows. Howard provided us with a whole list of buildings to go and look at whilst they are still there. Tony Williams and myself went off to look at 2 of them and managed to photograph both the Warwick Mill and the Manor Mill which are both in the area (roughly) we are modelling. The Manor is still in use for warehousing but the Warwick is out of use but since it is a listed building it is in use for mobile phone masts. Our luck was in that day as the mobile phone mast engineers were just about to go on site and had unlocked the gates so they let us go onto the property and take some detailed close up photos which have proved to be of excellent value.

The wall that Howard proposed we model is this one shown from the Warwick Mill.

DSCN1634.JPG
Engine house and side wall of Warwick Mill, Middleton


One of the good things about the mills Howard proposed was that a lot of the architects drawings for the construction of the mills were stored on microfiche in the Oldham Local Studies and Archive Centre so having decided that we would be far better off making a model based on Warwick Mill I set off to look at the drawings that were available.

Warwick Floor plan 5.pdf
Architects floor plan of Warwick Mill, 1907
(906.61 KiB) Downloaded 19 times


The drawings date to 1907 and I was able to find lots of information about the building. We are mainly interested in the side wall which includes the rope race wall which houses the drive from the engine house to each floor to provide power for the machines. The drawings gave us all the dimensions we needed in order to make a mockup to see if we could make a reasonably accurate model of Warwick Mill. It proved to be the case and the model will fit around our touch screen that drives the layout and actually provides a better view of the layout than the building we originally proposed.

The only issue with our location on the layout involved us not being able to put in a boiler house in the same spot as it would have been at the Warwick Mill. The prototype photo shows the wall of the engine house where the boiler house had been before it was demolished. We don't have the space to make a boiler house there so having checked with Howard we agreed to make one on the other side of the engine house going to the back of the layout.

So, that is how we decided to model our mill and since it was going to be our first I decided to call it Alpha Mill. I checked the book 'The Cotton Mills of Oldham' and there was no Alpha Mill there so that decided that! Also there aren't many letters in Alpha and it will be necessary to put the name on the tower on all 4 sides.

The next post will be on starting the model.

Ralph

ralphrobertson
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Re: Alpha Mill

Postby ralphrobertson » Thu Apr 26, 2018 1:34 pm

Having decided to base our model on Warwick Mill the first thing I had to do was work out how to get all this lovely brickwork modelled. We are fortunate in having our own laser cutter and without this machine this job would most certainly have not been started. The windows themselves would have been difficult to cut with the thin glazing bars and the laser really comes into its own here.

The first thing was to think out how to model these decorative panels above the windows. The photo below shows what I mean.

DSCN1632.JPG
Ground floor window panel


After a couple of trials I came up with this version to see if it would work. Note there is no brickwork on the wall, this was merely to see if I could manage to get the levels right above the window. The painting is just to get some colour on the white card - it won't be like this!

20180423_100911_resized.jpg


Encouraged by this I decided to adopt this technique for the walls. Here are the 4 layers involved and they are made from 1.5mm mounting board and 0.5mm card in this order - 1.5mm, 0.5mm, 0.5mm and 1.5mm.

20180318_124710_resized.jpg
The 4 layers making up a wall


The bits above the window are cut from 0.2mm card which happens to be 160gsm card available from normal stationers.

20180318_135306_resized.jpg
The 5 different panels that make up the window header


Glued together they make up the top of the window nicely.

20180318_135928_resized.jpg


Having proved it was possible I wanted to see if I could make the top part of the building which was where most of the decorative brickwork was.

DSCN1629.JPG
Top section of Warwick Mill wall


The frieze was made up of 2 layers of 0.5mm card and worked well. The top window was particularly awkward as the brickwork has recesses and stepped bricks, you can see this from the photo above. I made a trial section based on the top 2 window levels using the technique of 4 wall layers laminated together.

20180327_135704_resized.jpg

20180318_153456_resized.jpg
Frieze test showing photo of prototype


Don't look too closely, there are a couple of rows of bricks missing which have been added to the model now under construction.

A paint job was required to see if I could get it to look something like a mill.

20180423_135019_resized.jpg
Painted test wall


I was happy with the result and having shown it to Howard Bolton at Scalefour North and gained his approval I set to designing the left and right hand ends of the wall.

As I said before having the laser cutter has made this achievable, I wouldn't even contemplate starting this without having access to such a machine - it cold be done but it is so much easier with this laser. The other main factor in being able to achieve this is the ability to draw using a computer. I started drawing over 10 years ago using Coreldraw and I have never looked back having produced hundreds of drawings mainly for my Palatine etchings. It is really quite simple making drawings since the vast majority of what we need for drawings use straight lines and rectangles. Curves are rarely used but can easily be mastered and I would recommend anyone who thinks they can't do this to give it a go - it can open up a whole world of opportunities.

The photo below shows the laser cutting windows. It takes about 30 minutes to cut all these out - try doing that by hand!

20180424_094649_resized.jpg
The laser cutter cutting windows


Ralph

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iak
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Re: Alpha Mill

Postby iak » Thu Apr 26, 2018 3:14 pm

Stunning stuff Ralph.
Laser cutting just keeps advancing and allowing so much to ne addressed so easily. :thumb
I don't suffer from insanity, I enjoy every minute of it....

Perfection is impossible.
But I may choose to serve perfection....
Robert Fripp


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RobM
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Re: Alpha Mill

Postby RobM » Thu Apr 26, 2018 4:24 pm

Wow!!!........brilliant concept Ralph.......
Rob
http://www.robmilliken.co.uk
Updated December 2016

ralphrobertson
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Re: Alpha Mill

Postby ralphrobertson » Thu Apr 26, 2018 5:02 pm

Thanks Ian and Rob. I have to say that the first time I went to the Fablab in Manchester I was totally gobsmacked as to what you could actually achieve using a laser cutter. All you needed to do was to produce a drawing and get some time on the machine. I have mentioned this before but anyone can go to a Fablab and use all the machines there for free and they do run training courses from time to time which are chargeable. They will handhold you until you get the experience you need to use the machines. It does mean that you can go and see if this is something that would work for you but the opportunities are endless.

Our local Fablab is here: https://www.traffordfablab.co.uk/ and there will be one in your area too as they are spread around the country. As well as laser cutters they have 3D printers and ours has one of the very expensive ones too. It is well worth taking a look and going along to see what they have and how their machines can be applied to your modelling.

We would not be as far advanced with this if it hadn't been for us getting some experience at the Fablab. A couple of our members have benefitted from visiting them and have bought machines, one bought a Prusa 3D printer and the other a big HPC laser cutter. The only downside is that our Fablab only open on Saturdays now (used to be Friday as well) and as a result it can get quite busy. Tony and I used to book an hour each so we got a 2 hour slot on the machine which helped enormously. Check it out, it might revolutionise you modelling, it did for us!

Ralph

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Colin Parks
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Re: Alpha Mill

Postby Colin Parks » Thu Apr 26, 2018 9:47 pm

Hi Ralph,

It all looks really impressive! One query that I do have is regarding the shot of the windows being cut in the machine: are the waste pieces actually dislodged during the cutting process or is that done for effect by you?

All the best,

Colin

ralphrobertson
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Re: Alpha Mill

Postby ralphrobertson » Fri Apr 27, 2018 10:04 am

Hi Colin,

The laser beam actually burns the card and in this case the window panes are cut right through. You can control the laser very much like etching metal, you can cut right through or you can engrave the surface and the degree of engraving depends upon your settings in the driving software and you are in total control of that. The speed at which the head moves and the degree of power you can apply to the laser is controlled by you, it all depends upon the material you are using and the thickness of it. The majority of what I am doing at the moment is using the laser to cut right through to provide me with the right shapes, for the brickwork I use the engrave option.

The downside to cutting windows is that the loose parts can fly around once they are dislodged but usually the air jet that blows the soot away from the workpiece pushes them out of the way of the laser head as it moves. There have been a couple of times where they actually sit over the beam and it doesn't cut right through but then I have to resort to starting again or cutting it away gently with a scalpel and tidying up afterwards. Shellac varnish strengthens the card superbly and you can file it once it has hardened properly which makes this task a lot easier. I have had to do this a couple of times on the big wall I am working on at the moment but it is worth doing. You may have noticed on the shot of the bits of thin card for the window header there is one piece with a chunk missing and a few stray lines burnt in, this is where these parts have flown over the laser head as it was cutting another part. I always double up when cutting these bits and end up with more perfect ones than I actually need, those in the photo weren't actually used.

The laser we are using here is only a 5watt laser so it is not high powered. To cut wood (ply and MDF) and depending upon the thickness of it you will need to make several passes lowering the laser beam slightly on each pass before it usually cuts right through. I say usually because it often doesn't especially MDF. The little crossing vee jig I made in 1.5mm MDF (which is on Tony Wilkins thread about making turnouts) didn't cut right through everywhere and some parts had to have a final cut made with a blade. Personally I don't like using MDF on the cutter, on other forums you will find most modellers are using this for buildings but I just can't make it work for me. Interlocking corners are not for us, we tried it and were disappointed with the finished product. It takes forever to cut it out and multilayered card is far more effective and much stronger. It cuts card in a single pass and provides a great end result. The other option is to use plastic sheet but it has to be a special plastic and this commands a special price. The usual plastic used is Rowmark and I looked at the price and at £35 or so for a small sheet decided to stick with the process I am using here. I would need several sheets to make this end wall of the mill so it was a no no in terms of cost.

If anyone is interested in the laser, we are using an Emblaser 2 from Darkly Labs in Australia. https://darklylabs.com/ They have now appointed an agent in France to handle their European orders but there has never been any issue about getting support from Darkly in Australia, their support structure is far better than any other organisation I have ever been involved with and I can highly recommend them.

Hope this helps.

Ralph

(Edited to correct typo).
Last edited by ralphrobertson on Sat Apr 28, 2018 9:20 am, edited 2 times in total.

JFS
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Re: Alpha Mill

Postby JFS » Fri Apr 27, 2018 10:32 am

Hello Ralph,

Great to see these bits in the flesh at S4N - superb job which looks even better in the flesh. Very much looking forward to seeing further progress.

ralphrobertson wrote:You may have noticed on the shot of the bits of thin card for the window header there is one piece with a chunk missing


I noticed this, and actually thought it looked very effective - the real bricks (even "Accrington" bricks) spall and leave these gaps - so I would not worry about the odd one or two.

I confess that when I saw your first post in the Slattocks thread, I was reluctant to post as I did not want to appear negative or too much of a smart @rs£ [why change the habits of a lifetime Bolton?]. But the outcome has been so much more positive than I could have ever hoped! Especially if I have created a couple more enthusiasts for these wonderful buildings representing a lost past and those few of which are left, are standing mostly unloved and derelict


Good luck!

Best Wishes,

JFS
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Re: Alpha Mill

Postby JFS » Fri Apr 27, 2018 10:41 am

Some back-story...

Alpha.jpg
Alpha.jpg (124.49 KiB) Viewed 1101 times


Best wishes,

ralphrobertson
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Re: Alpha Mill

Postby ralphrobertson » Fri Apr 27, 2018 12:21 pm

Thanks for your kind words Howard. I am sure someone is going to ask you to explain the terminology you have posted here but let's see!

Ralph

ralphrobertson
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Re: Alpha Mill

Postby ralphrobertson » Mon May 14, 2018 11:19 am

Work on the mill has been steadily progressing since the last post. The front wall has been made in 3 separate pieces which will be joined together and I am now getting pretty close to making this join. This will make up a long wall which is going to be quite awkward to handle so I have put it off as long as I can. Now the main wall is completed (apart from the detail) I turned my attention to making a frame for the building.

The frame needs to house the touch screen for the control panel so we couldn't just have a simple box. The first job was to try to draw out the footprint together with all the dimensions so that I could see where to make the vertical frame supports.

Footprint of building.JPG
Coreldraw footprint drawing showing framing
Footprint of building.JPG (87.88 KiB) Viewed 755 times


From here I was able to start on the frame using 3mm plywood. The cutter can only cut 500x300mm so I was constrained by what I could do from the sheet so I had to splice some parts together which is why you see the dovetail joints. Here you can see the basic frame assembled, there are plenty of strengthening pieces glued over the joints which help to make the whole thing pretty solid.

20180512_105559_resized.jpg
Basic framework assembled


The next shot shows how it looks with the 3 parts of the main wall propped up against the frame. Its beginning to come together now but this wall needs detailing at the top. The bottom 75mm of the building sits in the scenery and the pump house sits in front of the left hand end which is why it is not bricked yet.

20180513_165546_resized.jpg
Front wall - plenty still to do


The next thing to think about was how am I going to transport this building around whilst making it? I need to take it to the club from time to time to put it on the layout and this is now beginning to get BIG. The height is going to get higher (there is a tower to add) and the length longer with the engine house and boiler house needing adding to the left hand end. I thought it would be a good thing to make a box to surround it so that it won't get knocked during transport so here is a photo of the structure I made so far - it is only a quick job, it is not a permanent thing so there is nothing fancy about it.

20180513_165603_resized.jpg
Box for the building


And here is a shot of the building in the box - looks lost at the moment but as I said it is going to get higher and longer.

20180513_165638_resized.jpg


Next stage is to detail the front wall and then start on the left hand side before moving to the tower and right hand side. The stonework for the top of the building has been made using a resin mould I produced in plastic.

Ralph

JFS
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Re: Alpha Mill

Postby JFS » Mon May 14, 2018 1:07 pm

Hello Ralph,

Great to see continued progress - really looking forward to seeing the rope race wall complete.

Just to mention that I found a photo of the Warwick engine on line. The presence of the motor and the fact that there are almost no ropes on the flywheel means this was taken just before the engine stopped work around 1964.

http://ellisdesign.jalbum.net/Arthur%20 ... wick-1.jpg

Of course, it will be very visible through the engine room windows...

Best wishes,

ralphrobertson
Posts: 66
Joined: Wed Nov 27, 2013 3:57 pm

Re: Alpha Mill

Postby ralphrobertson » Mon May 14, 2018 1:47 pm

Thanks Howard, that will be useful. You wouldn't by any chance have a 3-D drawing of this would you? We could then print one and include it otherwise it is going to have to wait until the rest of the building is complete.

I have to say that the biggest hurdle to climb on this project has been working out how to get all these different levels of brickwork represented to show the true character of the building. There have been a lot of rejects until I managed to get it right. Without the assistance from Howard and a laser cutter this would not have been possible, thanks to you Howard we undertook this journey and hopefully we are getting it right! When someone comes up to the layout and recognises the mill then it will have been worth it.

Ralph

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Tony W
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Re: Alpha Mill

Postby Tony W » Mon May 14, 2018 2:49 pm

I hope that box isn't too heavy coz if it doesn't fit under the layout........! :lol:
Tony

John Palmer
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Re: Alpha Mill

Postby John Palmer » Mon May 14, 2018 4:59 pm

ralphrobertson wrote:From here I was able to start on the frame using 3mm plywood. The cutter can only cut 500x300mm so I was constrained by what I could do from the sheet so I had to splice some parts together which is why you see the dovetail joints. Here you can see the basic frame assembled, there are plenty of strengthening pieces glued over the joints which help to make the whole thing pretty solid.
...
The next thing to think about was how am I going to transport this building around whilst making it? I need to take it to the club from time to time to put it on the layout and this is now beginning to get BIG. The height is going to get higher (there is a tower to add) and the length longer with the engine house and boiler house needing adding to the left hand end. I thought it would be a good thing to make a box to surround it so that it won't get knocked during transport so here is a photo of the structure I made so far - it is only a quick job, it is not a permanent thing so there is nothing fancy about it.

500X300mm is quite a big limitation on your cutter but even so I wonder whether it would be worth using it to cut a set of components that can be assembled into a transportation box. Your photographs suggest you have fabricated such a box from synthetic tongue and groove flooring which will certainly be tough but could be heavy. I'm currently engaged in making a box to transport three rows of terraced housing, each on its own sub-baseboard, and have been surprised by the amount of planning that has to go into the design for this. For example, how will your mill be secured within its transportation enclosure? Even if you don't use the cutter make the transportation box itself, it might be useful for making accurately cut frames to hold the mill securely within it.

ralphrobertson
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Re: Alpha Mill

Postby ralphrobertson » Mon May 14, 2018 5:38 pm

Hi John,

The box is actually just something to take it from the shed at home to the layout and back and is not intended for anything else. Once this building is totally completed it will reside permanently on the layout so this is just a lashup really. The cladding is thin 6mm poor quality ply with a printed coating, I got several sheets of this FOC from the club when they were throwing them out - nice to see them come to good use again. I also used some on Gt. Jackson St. for the layout covers so although it is not good quality really it has come to good use. This box is not at all heavy, just BIG and there are a few doorways to pass through between my shed and the club layout so it is worth doing properly to avoid damage to the building. I don't want to have to do all this again! Lol. The building will be located in the bottom of the transportation box by some stripwood into which the sub-base fits, this is one of the useful things about having the 75mm part of the wall that can be hidden - if this gets marked it doesn't matter.

500x300 is actually quite a large bed for a hobby cutter. If you want anything larger you are paying mega money for a machine.

Ralph

JFS
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Re: Alpha Mill

Postby JFS » Mon May 14, 2018 6:43 pm

ralphrobertson wrote:You wouldn't by any chance have a 3-D drawing of this would you? We could then print one and include it otherwise it is going to have to wait until the rest of the building is complete.

Ralph


As it happens, I do:-



I have to confess that I have not yet actually tried to create a .stl off one of these but it should in theory be possible!

Keep up the good work!

Best Wishes,

ralphrobertson
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Re: Alpha Mill

Postby ralphrobertson » Tue May 15, 2018 8:42 am

Howard, you always manage to turn up the goods. That photo of the Warwick engine house shows just how meticulous people were then, the place looks spotless and the engine very well looked after. I presume the pipe in the top right of the shot is the steam pipe feeding from the boiler house?

Your Youtube clip is excellent. I will talk to my 3-D printer man and see what he says about that. He has been producing some excellent stuff lately for one of our members 7mm layout, very good quality coming out of his printer.

Thanks again Howard.

Ralph

JFS
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Re: Alpha Mill

Postby JFS » Tue May 15, 2018 9:00 am

ralphrobertson wrote: I presume the pipe in the top right of the shot is the steam pipe feeding from the boiler house?
Ralph


Hello Ralph,

It is indeed - if you follow the link and go back three or four pictures, you will come across the Rutland Mill which is an identical engine, but it is the opposite hand because of the layout of the mill. When you get to that stage, you need to remember to put the high pressure cylinder on the boiler house side!

ralphrobertson wrote:I will talk to my 3-D printer man and see what he says about that.


The various bits of the engine are created as .obj files from lightwave but in theory can also be exported as .stl. You could ask your man if .obj can be handled by his machine. I suspect the issue will be that they might not be completely closed shapes because such things are not too important for 3d animations - but we can certainly try!

Here is another animation which perhaps shows the engine room and rope
race a bit better.



Best wishes,

JFS
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Joined: Wed Dec 16, 2009 3:47 pm

Re: Alpha Mill

Postby JFS » Tue May 15, 2018 9:19 am

ralphrobertson wrote: I presume the pipe in the top right of the shot is the steam pipe feeding from the boiler house?
Ralph


Hello Ralph,

It is indeed - if you follow the link and go back three or four pictures, you will come across the Rutland Mill which is an identical engine, but it is the opposite hand because of the layout of the mill. When you get to that stage, you need to remember to put the high pressure cylinder on the boiler house side!

ralphrobertson wrote:I will talk to my 3-D printer man and see what he says about that.


The various bits of the engine are created as .obj files from lightwave but in theory can also be exported as .stl. You could ask your man if .obj can be handled by his machine. I suspect the issue will be that they might not be completely closed shapes because such things are not too important for 3d animations - but we can certainly try!

Here is another animation which perhaps shows the engine room and rope race a bit better.



Best wishes,

ralphrobertson
Posts: 66
Joined: Wed Nov 27, 2013 3:57 pm

Re: Alpha Mill

Postby ralphrobertson » Tue May 15, 2018 9:29 am

Fantastic!

ralphrobertson
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Re: Alpha Mill

Postby ralphrobertson » Wed May 23, 2018 10:29 am

The first test of the frame was made last night and it just fit! Not much space and the anchor for the monitor needs changing to accommodate the mill.

20180522_201604_resized.jpg
Framework positioned around the monitor

20180522_201615_resized.jpg


A temporary placing of the 3 elements of the front wall shows what it is going to look like. The right hand end is for the tower and the front left has another building, the pump house, in front which is why there are no bricks there.

20180522_214316_resized.jpg
Front wall of Alpha Mill in place but not yet glued together


It is beginning to look like a building now.

Ralph

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Colin Parks
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Re: Alpha Mill

Postby Colin Parks » Wed May 23, 2018 12:13 pm

Hello Ralph,

That mill is going to be quite spectacular. Large and tall buildings are not so common on layouts, but yours will be a great focal point. The mill also conceals the monitor nicely!

All the best,

Colin

JFS
Posts: 526
Joined: Wed Dec 16, 2009 3:47 pm

Re: Alpha Mill

Postby JFS » Wed May 23, 2018 4:31 pm

Hello Ralph,

This is looking super - very well done - it is so good to see this mill being done properly; unique in model railway history in my experience.

I'm so pleased we have got the right man on the job!

Best wishes,

ralphrobertson
Posts: 66
Joined: Wed Nov 27, 2013 3:57 pm

Re: Alpha Mill

Postby ralphrobertson » Wed May 23, 2018 6:26 pm

This is looking super - very well done - it is so good to see this mill being done properly; unique in model railway history in my experience.

I'm so pleased we have got the right man on the job!


Thanks Howard. If I hadn't posted a photo of our initial intention then none of this would be possible. Although none of the Manchester group sit on forums regularly this time it paid dividends. If Howard hadn't 'advised' us that we had it all wrong we would never had known. In the process of getting it right we have learned a tremendous amount about our local history, cotton mills and mill engines and seeing Howard's Youtube clips of working engines is the cream on the cake. Many thanks for sharing all this with us and the best I can do is to try and make as good a job as I can with making a good representation of a local cotton mill.

It has been made considerably easier with the laser cutter and I am convinced this type of construction would be next to impossible without the cutter or at least you would have to use a lot of window etches to get it right. Plastic brickwork just doesn't do it for me, curved edges to bricks always looks like curved edges.

The 3 parts of the front wall have now been glued together and work has started on drawing the left hand wall. Hopefully the next wall will get done quicker.

Ralph


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