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Having recently constructed an open topped cattle wagon from an IP Engineering kit and repainted a secondhand Tralee & Dingle open topped cattle wagon in PLR livery, I decided to give them both sheep loads. I bought six sheep from Motley Miniatures for £20 and six 3D printed sheep from DesignPrintScan3D for £21 and duly loaded them into the wagons.
Someone more knowledgeable of these things than me, pointed-out that in reality, when sheep were loaded into wagons they were crammed in tightly to help ensure that none could fall over and get trampled on. So, I was faced with a problem. I worked-out that I would need at least 20 sheep per wagon to fill them - which would cost around £120 in total. Considering the wagons only cost around £50 for the pair, this seemed somewhat extravagant to my penny-pinching mentality. So, how could I fill them?
I decided to explore the possibility of casting a load for the wagons using plaster. The first job was to make a casing for the mould. This was made slightly smaller than the internal dimensions of the wagon from five pieces of corriflute. The base was the size of the internal dimensions minus 10mm to take account of the thickness of the sides of the mould box.
The sides were 35mm tall. These were fixed to the base with hot glue.
Some cheap PlayDoh was acquired from my local Bargain Store and this was squidged into the mould box to about half its depth,
A couple of the 3D printed sheep were then carefully pressed into the PlayDoh and removed, leaving an impression.
When the entire surface had been impressed with sheep backs, a sloppy mix of plaster was poured into the mould and left for an hour to set.
The sides of the mould box were then prised off and the PlayDoh removed.
The cast was then scrubbed under the tap with a pan cleaning brush to remove the more persistent pieces of PlayDoh.
The false floor was then painted black with acrylic paint.
The sheep were then painted a yellowy cream colour ........
..... and then dry-brushed with white so the cream colour showed through in the depressions. Their faces were painted black.
Their bums were painted brown, leaving their tails white. They were test fitted into the wagon and, although they looked OK, they did give the impression they were swimming in molasses.
Furthermore, when the sheep were removed from the PlayDoh, some of their heads became misshapen.....
So, I decided to have another go. I had noticed that when pushing the back of the sheep into the PlayDoh, there was a tendency for the previous adjacent impressed to be distorted, causing some of the sheep to have narrow ridged backs. For my second attempt, I used all six sheep, leaving them in the mould while I made the next impressions.
This helped to prevent the adjacent impressions becoming distorted. I was also very careful when removing the heads from the Doh. Eventually, the mould was finished ........
...... and so was filled with plaster, paying careful attention to how it was poured into the heads.
After an hour or so, the cast was removed and cleaned-up.
This was a big improvement. Before the plaster fully hardened, I carefully removed unnecessary pieces of plaster from around the edges and tidied up some of their heads with a craft knife and a chisel.
I then painted them as before.
As the sheep are more tightly clustered, there is less impression of them swimming in treacle and, providing they are not given close scrutiny, I think they could pass for a load of sheep.
I think the PlayDoh cost less than £4.00 (though you can make your own from flour, water, salt and oil) and the 1kg of plaster was £6.99 on eBay. There was enough in the bag for three castings.
A word of warning! Don't mix the plaster too thickly. It needs to be about the consistency of whipping cream so it can flow freely into all the nooks and crannies. I made the mistake of making one batch too thick (more like rich double cream) and it simply wouldn't flow. In fact it was starting to set as I tried pouring. The result was headless sheep with no surface detail.
PostScriptA kindly fellow modeller stepped in to help and offered to 3D print a cluster of sheep for me. I sent him 50 photos of my six sheep clustered tightly together, taken from various angles and heights. With the magic of modern technology, he was able to take those images and stitch them together to make a 3D image.
He then used this to 3D print the cluster. As each cluster took up 1/3 of the space in the wagon, he gave me three print-outs.
These were then painted and put into the wagon.
They clearly look a lot better than my plaster casts, but not everyone has access to a 3D printer and so, hopefully, my low tech solution might be useful if you need to fill a wagon reasonably cheaply.
This article first appeared on riksrailway.blogspot.com
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