Down-Sizing - Again

Posted: September 12th, 2010 under News.

This commission came from David Mitchell who was actually searching the web looking for a railway “N” gauge gas tower when some tortuous route brought him to my website and a picture of the railway garden I’ve already done for my partner.   I don’t know whether he ever found what he was really looking for, but on the way he asked if I could make a garden for him on the same scale.  (N gauge = 2 mm/12″).

Through the post duly arrived a complete house (beautifully detailed in resin and about 5 cm/2″ high) and a template cut from mountboard.   To start the garden, I used the template to cut out a thin sheet of plastic that was to be the base.  There are two main advantages of using thin plastic when constructing a “portable” garden:

1)   The plastic will “take” a vast quantity of paint, glue (or anything else you care to throw at it, within reason) with only minimal - if any - warping or shrinkage.   I’ve tried using an aluminium sheet in the past, and the unspeakable result was only suitable for the nearest dustbin.

2)   The thinness of the material means that it can easily be slotted into an existing layout with no apparent variation in height.   A few dabs of glue in the right places, and the scene can appear as though it was constructed in situ as an integral part of the layout.

There were very few restrictions other than some bushes and trees/fence “would be nice” along the long side as this edge would be going straight up against the backdrop of his layout .   I also needed to be aware that the two sides opposite the long side would be where the train would run.   Apart from that,  I could:

1)  Put the house where I wanted.

2)  Put anything else in the garden I wanted.

As I’ve been making fruit and vegetables for many years in 1/12th scale, my immediate thought was to do a vegetable patch.  I remember many years ago being told by Sue Heaser (an world-renowned expert in polymer clay modelling) that when you are working in a very tiny scale, you cannot hope to recreate every last piece; rather you have to do just enough to give an impression.   The imagination and perception of the viewer will then “draw in” the rest.   Hence cabbages with just a miniscule knot of clay and a maximum of four surrounding slithers and the same for the cauliflowers and lettuces.   Railway materials (such as the scatter materials and grasses) did a lot of the rest.   For earth at this mad scale, I can heartily recommend textured paint - different shades mixed together for realism.

The apple tree was made from fine copper wire (stipped out from an old power cable) then covered with a thin layer of texturing material.   Yes, I did roll individual apples from clay, but if you look closely, you’ll see there aren’t any stalks.  You will need to imagine those.

For the bushes, I used a lot of “sea moss”, which is a natural material that first needs to be softened in water, but can then be sprayed with scatter glue before dipping in various different scatter materials to simulate leaves.   Small flowers are literally just specks of different colours of scatter materials and Flower Soft.

As for the house, it had already come ready painted, but I added greenery to make it look like it had stood in situ for years, not to mention “dirtying” it up with railway modellng powders to resemble soot(particularly on the side facing the railway).   A bit of a confession though - I had to make a new chimney pot for on the chimneys as it got “lost” somehow.  So sorry David - hope you didn’t notice!  (But I do know now how to mix a clay colour in clay….. if you get what I mean….)

The completed garden was duly popped into a box, put in the post, and is going to be slotted into a layout that David is working on called “Kidmore Yard” which is scheduled for an exhibition in April 2011.  To see more of David’s work, visit: