Thursday, 8 December 2016

Thomas and the Landslide - Christmas Special 2016

The days leading up to Christmas are always very busy on the Sandwell Valley Railway. This year frost followed by very wet weather cause problems but the day is saved by three young children.
This video was made in collaboration with the Pine Tree Junction Film Unit. Many thanks to Pine Tree Junction for shooting some of the scenes, constructive criticism, loan of stock and props, and for assistance with editing.

Monday, 31 October 2016

Rehearsals for the SVR Christmas Special

Thomas and his friends, Percy, Toby and James are very excited. Soon it will be time to start filming the Christmas Special so today they have all been out in the garden rehearsing their parts.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Thomas to the Rescue

Here is the latest Thomas the Tank Engine video from the Sandwell Valley railway film crew.

Thomas the Tank Engine's branch line takes him near to an old quarry in which there are a number of caves. One day a caver has a nasty fall and Harold is asked to transport him to hospital, but it's too foggy to land so Thomas has to come to the rescue.

The Making of Thomas to the Rescue

The initial idea for the story came from a discussion with G Scale Society members earlier this year. Much of the story is based on a nasty fall I had while caving on 1st November 2015 and what then happened to me on the day.

This was always going to be a highly experimental video as it required G Scale garden railway scenes to be blended with 12” to the foot action shots.

The first challenge was to make it look like the garden railway had a quarry as a backdrop. The background is from some drone footage I took in July last year and it is the quarry where the accident took place. The railway embankment is by the pond area in the garden and the finished effect was achieved by erecting a green screen behind the railway. The first goods train I filmed contained a green truck which had to be replaced with a red one.

The caving clips feature three caves in South Wales and were lifted from videos I had made over the last few years.

The story also required mist and fog effects and these were added in the edit by using ProFog from Pixel Studios.

The pictures of the injured caver and the stretcher carry are of me and were taken on the day of the accident.

As it is a Thomas the Tank Engine video the air ambulance just had to be Harold the Helicopter. He is a Megablocks model and he is of a much smaller scale but that doesn’t matter as he never appears alongside Thomas. Harold’s blades were made to rotate by drilling a hole through the body and attaching them to a Meccano axle rod which was powered by a No. 1 Meccano clockwork motor. Harold was filmed against some green card and the flying backgrounds are drone footage and a cloud background from the video editing software.

Thomas’s facial animation (and that of the Troublesome Truck) were added using CrazyTalk 8. A still frame was lifted from the video footage and imported into CrazyTalk. The resulting animation had a chroma-green background added before adding it back as a layer in the video editing software.

I appear as the recuperating caver and I was also added using the green screen technique.

The video was edited in Final Cut Pro on an Apple Mac computer. The narration was recorded on an iPhone using a Zoom iQ5 microphone. The fire engine bell was from the Final Cut Pro sound effects library and the helicopter sound from the iLife audio library. The background music from the YouTube audio library.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

The Pond Area Is Finished

The pond area is finally complete over a year since work started.

The slabs have been pressure washed and re-levelled. The spaces in-between have been filled with beach pebbles.

The log-roll has been re-painted.

 The pond liner has been hidden by placed larger pebbles around the edge.
The bridge has also been pressure-washed.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

More Work on the New Station

The platforms have now been spayed and the picket fence is being erected. The next job is to clad the block-work.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

New Terminus Station

The platforms for the new terminus station are nearing completion and Thomas and his friends couldn't resist sneaking along the line to have a peek.

SVRly sign

James with station car park in the foreground

Coal trucks in the bay platform

James has just arrived and Thomas is setting off

Percy and Thomas

James and Thomas with signal box in the background

Percy and Thomas

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Extension Progress Update 10

I've been taking lessons from Mike Duffy in foam board modelling. After numerous incidents (including glueing my fingers together, mis-measuring, mis-cutting and stemming the flow of blood following embedding a Stanley knife in my fingers) I've got this far with my new station platforms. I've calculated that I need to mark out about 10,000 bricks and this is represents about 2,500. I now realise just how skilled Mike is. If my station ever gets finished I think it will be my last foam board model - life's too short.

The longer platform is 3 metres
Close up of the bricks

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

The Bridge Is Back

The pond refurbishment is almost complete and trains can now run again.

The next job is to make the new station.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Pond Refurbishment Update

I was hoping to have the pond completed by now but the weather this month here in the Midlands has not been conducive to work on the railway with heavy rain showers, thunder and lightning. Over the weekend we dodged the showers and managed to empty the pond. Is was a slow process as we tried to save as much of the wild life as possible.
Saturday evening and the pond is almost empty.
Sunday afternoon and the pond is almost ready for the new liner - but what a mess!
The liner went in Sunday evening but the weather forecast for the rest of week is for more of the same so work may have to be halted for a few days.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

New Thomas The Tank Engine Video

Planning has begun on the next Thomas the Tank Engine video. The working title is "Thomas and the School Train". This will be my most ambitious video to date and will take several weeks to film and edit.
I've written the script, planned the scenes and I've made a couple of camera mounts for some of the shots that will be needed.
At the same time I'm still working on the pond refurbishment and the new terminus station.
GoPro camera mount.
Thomas camera mount. The camera cam be positioned to video the track as it disappears below Thomas's wheels.
Camera-eye view of the track.
Thomas's camera mount can be rotated to video his wheels and connecting rod as he races along.
Camera-eye view of Thomas's wheels and motion.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Extension Progress Update 9

All of the track layout has been completed except for fixing some of it down. The next jobs are to make the platforms and clad the walls.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

All trains cancelled until further notice

Before my enforced 6 month layoff from the railway I had started to re-furbish the pond area, but it seems that over the winter the pond has developed a leak and the water level has dropped by at least 6 inches.
The water used to cover the pond liner below the slabs.
The original water level can be seen marked on the log-roll.
Lots of work to do.

This afternoon I've started work on clearing the site and at the moment I cannot run trains around the garden as I've had to remove the bridge over the pond.

The missing bridge.
All of the slabs have been taken away for pressure washing.
The next job is to get the log-roll out.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Extension Progress Update 8

Shortly after I posted the last update I had a nasty fall whilst pursuing my other hobby which resulted in a 3 week stay in hospital and 6 months of forced idleness, but now I've been able to start working again on the extension. All of the block-work has now been completed and as soon as the concrete has fully set I can recommence track-laying.
The station area. The station carpark will be on the left.
The station throat.
The turning triangle.
The same area taken from a different viewpoint.