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Bridge and Boat diorama

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Bridge and Boat diorama

Postby St.Luke » Thu Apr 20, 2017 5:37 am

Late last year the Ballina Naval and Maritime Museum (Australia) received an antiquated console that operated a lift-span bridge.
The museum staff knew about my background in electronics. They asked if it were possible for the console to operate a model bridge.
After I said yes, I got roped into being a volunteer worker for the museum. Now my job is to modify the console and to build a model bridge.
However, I requested that I would be given liberty to create the display however I wanted to.
They gave me the okay and all the time to do it.
I thought 'Great!' Here is my chance to build my first model and diorama. And it will be a working diorama.

However, I once read that a sculpture should not move because one day it won't move anymore. Tell that to Alexander Calder!
Taking that into consideration, my plan is to make a diorama that would be good enough to stand on its own as a piece of artwork.
So my task is to build a museum quality artwork-display.

To follow this Work In Progress will involve seeing a fair bit of structural work, electronics, and mechanics.
Since I am taking the project to a form of artwork, I have also decided to use the console for a diorama of electrical wiring.

For starters, I will show what the basic plan is. Then the following posts will show what I have done so far. The dioramas are half finished.

This is the console and control panel layout:

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This is the actual bridge the console came from:

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The display area given to me is 1.2 x 2.4 m (4 x 8 ft), without the console.
For the whole bridge to fit in, the scale had to be 1/72. The whole project is scratch build; i.e.,I have to design and make plans for everything.

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To be continued.
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Re: Bridge and Boat diorama

Postby Pooch » Thu Apr 20, 2017 8:17 am

As a model railroader and model builder, I can't wait to see this. By the way, that bridge looks awfully familiar. Is that in central Florida?
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Re: Bridge and Boat diorama

Postby St.Luke » Thu Apr 20, 2017 8:06 pm

Hello Pooch. Thank you for your support.
Pooch wrote:... that bridge looks awfully familiar. Is that in central Florida?

You may be thinking of the Carlton Bridge at Bath, Maine, are you? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carlton_Bridge
If so, do you know what is to become of it?

However, to answer your question. No, it's the Wardell Bridge in north eastern NSW, Australia. It has no railway across it either.
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Re: Bridge and Boat diorama

Postby St.Luke » Sat Apr 22, 2017 4:54 pm

To continue. The display table and its control box, which fits under the bridge area, needed to be built.
The slot across the tabletop is for guiding the traversing boat.

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The control box has two access doors for servicing the bridge and boat motors, cabling, and circuitry.

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Now for the bridge substructure:
The bridge pier footings.

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Bridge piers.

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Girders.

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Acrylic undercoat.
The holes seen at the girder ends is for electrical wiring contact terminals. This is for the bridge span's internal electronics.

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There are fender piers (aka dolphins) up and down stream from the bridge. The central pier of the outer dolphins contain navigational lights. These have a hole drilled through them to accommodate the these lights.

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to be continued.
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Re: Bridge and Boat diorama

Postby Pooch » Sat Apr 22, 2017 5:51 pm

1/72 scale is a pretty popular modeling scale. You might find some of the things you need such as vehicles and figures in a hobby store. 1/87, which is HO train scale, might even have been better. Tons of ready made things in that size. You might even have found bridge parts.
Are you going to model the water? If so, what are you planning on using?
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Re: Bridge and Boat diorama

Postby St.Luke » Sun Apr 23, 2017 5:10 pm

Hello Pooch.
Thanks for the tips.
I must first let you know that the museum (non-profit org) has restricted funding. So I am always looking for a cheaper way to do things. Materials used can pose limitations to the ideal.
In regards to scale. I had considered all scales between 1/87 to 1/45 and chose 1/72 for two main reasons:
1. The available 6 mm square timber is close to actual steel girders, where 1/87 would have made it look too thick. Just the towers required over 11 metres of timber, so prefabricated plastic bridge girders would add more to the costs.
2. 1/72 fits nicely across the display and looks much bigger. Though you are right about greater access to scale 1/87 scale items.

In Australia, nearly all hobby stores in rural areas have vanished. Parts need to be ordered from capital cities. These days it is cheaper to order from China (if you can wait 1-2 months).

About the water. I've been thinking about this from the start, but yet still undecided. The cost of gels etc., and now the thickness, over that area, is no longer an option.
However, there are a few unanswered questions which need to be answered before deciding:
1. Will the boat roll across the surface of the river, or on tracks under the table?
    A/ If on surface, then I will use a hard gloss enamel paint.
    B/ If underneath, then I may either use artist oil paint and varnish.
2. Does the museum want a large background scene, or just a small skirting.
    A/ If Large background, then I will use artist oil paints to continue river from tabletop to screen. Painting in the tug boats and sugarcane barges used when bridge was new.
    B/ If skirting is used, then it depends on Question [1].
Personally I prefer the larger background idea, and the boat running on tracks under the table.
Then I can use oil paints to paint a continuous scene up the wall. Similar to what they use in New York Natural History Museum.

What are your thoughts on modelling the water?
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Re: Bridge and Boat diorama

Postby Pooch » Sun Apr 23, 2017 11:00 pm

There are so many ways that modelers use to replicate water. Trouble is, most are messy and expensive. There are plastic sheets that you can buy that look pretty good, but they don't come in the size you need. You'd have to piece them together and then you would have seams that would look ridiculous.
In the size you are working on, you might want to think about plaster as a base for the water. I don't know what kind of artistic skills you have, but you can get it textured to the type of water you are going for. Calm, rough, small ripples. Then once you're happy with it you can paint it the necessary color (Blueish, dirty brown...etc.) and then finish off by covering it with a clear, shiny varnish for a glossy watery look.
Experiment somewhere on a small area to try it out and see what you can come up with. Best and cheapest idea I can think of for the size of the area. Good luck!
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Re: Bridge and Boat diorama

Postby St.Luke » Mon Apr 24, 2017 12:51 am

Pooch wrote:... you might want to think about plaster as a base for the water... you can get it textured to the type of water you are going for. Calm, rough, small ripples. Then once you're happy with it you can paint it the necessary color... and then finish off by covering it with a clear, shiny varnish for a glossy watery look...

Thanks Pooch, the plaster idea sounds good. I will experiment with it.

Test boards are always a necessity when trying something new. I have already used some for this project already.
For test boards I normally paint the back of unwanted (board) paintings with an acrylic undercoat, then cut into 6 inch, or so, squares.

Thanks for your help.
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Re: Bridge and Boat diorama

Postby St.Luke » Tue Apr 25, 2017 4:45 pm

To continue. I needed a break from the bridge construction and instead focused on the needed electronics.
The project requires three voltages. 24 volts for panel lamps and other lighting. 12 volts for motors and relays, and 5 volts for servos and logic circuits.
I always liked designing electronics circuits, component layouts and etching the tracks for a circuit board. The board components make for a modular type of architecture.

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Since the console internal wiring will become a diorama as well, I decided to add some extra lighting by installing LED light indicators. The green LEDs indicate the voltage supply is OK, and the red LEDs indicate that the fuse, of that voltage line, has blown.

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The project will include sound effects. An alarm bell while halting road traffic, and a fog horn and engine sound for the boat.
I cannibalized an old TV set for its speakers. Made brackets for them so they can be mounted into the console.

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Cut out holes for connectors, power socket, and speakers.
The console interior was painted a darkish blue-grey in hope of bringing out, or contrasting, the coloured wiring.

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to be continued.
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Re: Bridge and Boat diorama

Postby Derexbrown » Wed Apr 26, 2017 2:53 am

so complex
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Re: Bridge and Boat diorama

Postby St.Luke » Wed Apr 26, 2017 5:36 pm

Hello Derexbrown
Derexbrown wrote:so complex

Tell me about it! :roll:
I am not as young as I used to be and have greater trouble keeping track of it all, even with all my notes.
In all honesty, I am only halfway in figuring it out. Lot depends on how things work out in the immediate stages.
I may know what is needed, but not yet knowing how.
It is an act of faith that it will be worked out until it is finished....much like painting.
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Re: Bridge and Boat diorama

Postby St.Luke » Wed Apr 26, 2017 5:56 pm

To continue.
The bridge span is quite complex on its own. In itself, could easily stand alone as an artifact.
Electronically, under the span is a set of red and green navigational lights, and contacts for supplying power and data.
The wiring for these needed to be hidden. So a trench was carved out into the base plate.

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Then I added the basic framework to see exactly where to route the wiring up into the span's operational hut area.

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While building the frame I got the idea of how to make the cabling anchoring points.
I used parts of fishing swivels and soldered them onto bolt heads.

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Added extra framework, and used bamboo skewers for doweling the joints.

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Inlaid the wiring.

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After checking wiring continuity I filled in the trenches with wood putty. Then painted an undercoat.

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To be continued.
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Re: Bridge and Boat diorama

Postby St.Luke » Fri Apr 28, 2017 8:15 pm

To continue:
On top of the bridge span there are balconies, gangways and an operations hut.

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Traffic lights for river boats.

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to be continued.
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Re: Bridge and Boat diorama

Postby CarlOwen » Fri Apr 28, 2017 9:21 pm

Good evening. I keep checking in on this one. Incredible. I am sure the museum personnel have no clue how profound this work really is. Everything, and I mean everything is being created by you. I have no doubt about this. Even if you are interpreting pre-existing plans, you still have to understand and manifest those plans into actual objects, which I also have serious doubts about because what I see is so original. You are amazing. I await to see this finished work of art.
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Re: Bridge and Boat diorama

Postby St.Luke » Sat Apr 29, 2017 8:10 pm

Thanks Carl for all those supportive and encouraging words.
To tell you the truth, I find it amazing too, as it unfolds. I am too busy working at each step to realize how well it is coming together until I step back and look at it. I think most artists experience this too. I am sure you do, because you are getting better and better.

Yes, all the planning, and still much more to do, is from scratch. No bridge plans or console schematics were available. The bridge dimensions were deduced from two measurements, the width of road and bridge span length (done with a tape measure). Then scaled the rest from measuring photographs. The electronics is an old RAAF trade.

Glad to know that you are following.
By the way, I am following your Grand Canyon knife paintings - great stuff. I have knives but not used then for painting yet. But following you has got me thinking about it.
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Re: Bridge and Boat diorama

Postby St.Luke » Sat Apr 29, 2017 8:37 pm

To continue.
Building the bridge towers. It does not look like it but over 11 metres of 6 mm square timber was used.

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Doweling all the joints.

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Atop of the towers are cable pulley wheels and their brackets. None of the available pulley wheels were narrow enough. So I had to make my own from washers.
I sweat soldered them together. I needed ten wheels.

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Then the brackets were made to suit both the wheels and tower framing.

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Below, the towers are not yet installed. I was just checking the clearances around the bumper rollers.

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Building a servicing gangway around the pulley wheels.
Using matchsticks, split bamboo and fly screen for the fenced railings.

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and a paint job.

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to be continued.
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Re: Bridge and Boat diorama

Postby CarlOwen » Sat Apr 29, 2017 9:19 pm

Thank you Peter. From what I see here is that you work fast. And, accurate. That three ring planning binder is going to be important. I would keep it or have a side display for it (a copy of it of course) so people could experience how this was put together as this project process is awe inspiring.
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Re: Bridge and Boat diorama

Postby St.Luke » Sun Apr 30, 2017 12:13 am

Hello Carl, sorry if you got misled by my posts. I do not work that fast at all but only here, there, and whenever I can.
In my first post I mentioned ...
St.Luke wrote:...the following posts will show what I have done so far. The dioramas are half finished....
So I am only posting stages of development in piecemeal so as not to dump a whole lot in one hit. Otherwise it is too much to take in, I think.

Anyway, my next post (tomorrow) will be my last 'catch-up' post to where I am at the moment. Then it will most probably be a single photo-montage update per week.

Nearly all technical drawings are up to date (from sketches to digital drawings). All these and my notes (still needing to be word-processed), will eventually go into a manual. The manual will contain these notes for servicing, troubleshooting notes for the electronics, and of course the operational procedures. All photos will be stored on the museum computer (or wherever they want it).

Carl, to be honest, the maritime museum I am working for has about two hundred model boats and ships. Many of them are so beautifully put together from scratch. These modelers have taken years to build some of them. Some are 4 to 10 feet long, with incredible detail. I get a lot of inspiration, to do my best and to reclaim my patience, by taking a stroll around the museum. Much like visiting an art museum/gallery.
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Re: Bridge and Boat diorama

Postby CarlOwen » Sun Apr 30, 2017 7:32 am

Good morning Peter. Well that sounds a little better. If I worked as fast and dedicated as it appeared that you have my wife would have me back in counseling. I know what you mean about inspiration and for me, humbling experiences. There are many fine art galleries in Santa Fe. Whenever I get a little full of myself, like when I recently won an Honorable Mention for Grand Canyon 3 from the Fusion Art Gallery in Palm Springs, California, I visit those galleries for the inspiration, works of art close examinations, and to be humbled a little by the fine work presented. The museums are on a whole different level. I also visit those. Of course, looking forward to your next post.
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Re: Bridge and Boat diorama

Postby Pooch » Sun Apr 30, 2017 6:03 pm

Wow! That is impressive. I'm loving watching this go up. You're quite the craftsman. Seems they picked the right guy for the job.
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