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Water on Trinity Dock Street Bridge

Trinity Dock Street Bridge is a 4mm/ft/OO gauge layout based on the old town docks in Hull, Yorkshire.

As the name implies there is a bridge on the model, this bridge a asymmetric double leaf swing bridge, which spans the channel between Humber and Railway Docks (real).

This photo shows the channel between Humber Dock and the river with the tidal lock gates, but gives the general idea of what I was looking for.


With part of Railway Dock too, this channel presented a far size of water to model.  Having seen many attempts at modelling water on other layout, I knew this was going to prove to be a bit of a challenge.

Thought of several ways, and searching the internet I found a product sold by a Chinese model supplier, sorry can’t remember the name, it turned out to be a sheet of plastic, not what I really wanted but thought as I had paid for it, I was going to use it (The Yorkshireman in me!)

This is how I made use of it, to get what I believe to be a pretty good representation for the water I was looking for.

Stage 1:- Was to cover the base board with a good mix of dirty brown, grey and black acrylics mixed up to give a real mottled effect to give a base coat, you can’t see the results.

Stage 2:- The plastic was cut to shape and glued down onto the baseboard, once the paint was dried.  In the main I used UHU glue, a bit of a mistake initially. UHU contains MEK (Methane Ethane Ketone) the solvent used in plastic glue.  Initially, this had a horrific effect that it made the plastic sheet melt and bubble up in various places.

Thinking that this had ruined the surface and thinking I would have to ruined the whole lot out I left it and went to bed, only to find the next morning most of the bubbles had collapsed and even flattening out the lumps in the sheet and leaving an uneven surface.

However, this still looked far to ‘plasticy’ for my liking and the remaining bubbles in the surface were still far to high for the slightly rippled surface.

Here I reverted to the old system of multi layers of varnish on top of the plastic sheet.  However, I did not use clear lacquer, but a dark oak version from a certain DIY store (B&Q).

What I did notice was where the lacquer was thickest the colour was darker and made ridges.  This gave me an idea, I overloaded a one inch artist brush with the varnish and using the brush in a arc I pushed it into ripples, this was continued about eight or nine times until the ripples began to show.

After a few more coats, bits of wood, etc., were thrown on to the wet to represent flotsam, I have been told that this would happen as it would damage the screws of the ships and the ship owners would claim compensation for this, so the docks authority would clear it on a regular basis.

After this, a further five or six layers of lacquer, I added some yellow ocher acrylics to simulate emulsified oil in the water, this again was brushed into arcs and allowed to ‘feather out’ into the surrounding water.

Again, another five or six coats of varnish were applied and completed.

The surface is vacuumed and polished with furniture polish to maintain the shine on the surface.

Think I have manage to get as close as I can to the real thing.

Many  have stated that they think the water was the best they have seen, what do you think.

The police row boat is part of the diorama showing the police recovering a poor soul from the dock, a regular occurance it would seem, as the police sargeant, John Thomas Rose (Yes, his real name) would often tell me as a child, he was my grandfather!


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  1. Iain

    Fantastic article Gavin. Brings back memories going round Hull Docks with my grandparents.

    • GavRose

      I remember walking around there as a youngster, in the early 70’s. Not the most pleasant place to walk around.

  2. ClaytonCanuk

    What a fantastic water effect, reminded me of many times I had spent with my Dad at Trafford Park on the Manchester ship canal (1965)
    A real credit to you, it has given me a lot of food for thought.

    Glyn Waterfall

    • GavRose

      Thank you, got lots of good comments at RailEX NE this weekend.

      About 60 hours work in the whole lot, think it was worth it.

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