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Army_Air_Force

An 'MLP' modelling thread for your Daughter - Curious??

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In a world of social media and texting, abbreviations and initials are common place, but unless you're a youngish girl, 'MLP' probably doesn't mean much to you!

 

If you are a young girl, you probably know that 'MLP' is short for "My Little Pony"; popular toys for many years and an animated TV series. I can hear the murmurs of confusion echoing around the internet, so what does all this have to do with modelling? WELL!! If you're looking for aeroplanes, armour, warships etc, you've come to the wrong page. If you want to see something a bit different, with lots of scratch building and an unusual theme, then take a seat.

 

My daughter ( now heading towards nine ), loves making things. She's built several plastic models, starting just before she was four years old. The Spitfire diorama below was one which she sold for a healthy profit!

 

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Around June 2016, I was looking for a project to help to fill in the six weeks of the Summer school holiday. My daughter was six at the time and for a while, we'd talked about making a small model railway. This would be a good holiday project involving lots of different skills. However, for a six year old girl, I didn't think a normal railway model was interesting enough to capture her imagination. My wife suggested a more fantasy railroad with fairy castles etc., but I wasn't sure.

 

A few days after the initial conversation, my daughter and I were watching recorded episodes of "My Little Pony" on TV, and the particular episode featured the railroad that runs through 'Equestria', the land of "My Little Ponies". Hmmmm! the gears in my brain began to grind around and suddenly made a connection!!

 

Kinder Surprise chocolate eggs had recently featured small toy "My Little Ponies" that were about an inch and a bit long. These would make ideal characters for a small "My Little Pony" themed railroad. My daughter was over the Moon with the idea; so that's what we did. The layout would be about three by two feet in size, which would fit in the top of her wardrobe when not being used. It would be a simple oval with one switch leading up a small track to a station. There would be a dividing backscene through the middle of the layout to create two different areas of interest. Here's the initial idea. I've been doing some more work on it recently, but really need to take you back to the beginning of the story first.

 

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To work on a small baseboard with tight radius curves, but have more manageable detail size, I'm decided on the UK's OO9 scale narrow gauge track. A new loco body was planned, along the lines of the loco from the show, using an existing 0-4-0 chassis. Some existing wagons would probably be used until custom units could be made to match those on the TV program. The buildings would also have to be scratch built, using screen captures from the show to get a feel for the look of the place. The scale chosen is about right for the Kinder Egg "MLP's" to ride in the wagons. Several duplicates of the ponies would also be customised to create additional characters for playing on the layout!

Late June 2016, I got a running-in loop out so my daughter could have a play, and I could get a feel as to how well she could handle OO9 scale locos and wagons. The school holidays was still about four weeks away, but I planned on getting the baseboard made before the holiday so I could work out track quantities and other details before a trip to the model shop for materials. 

 

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So if you want to follow the adventures of Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie and Twilight Sparkle, and the construction of Ponyville, Cloudsdale and the Crystall Empire, this is the place to be! Failing that, let your daughters know!!

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To add interactivity to what is a simple layout, we talked about adding lighting effects. The houses would be internally lit and individually switchable on/off for when ponies leave home and return. We'd have a flickering LED camp fire near the woods and for the Crystal Empire Palace, I hoped to make it from polished clear acrylic, with LED's shining up through the legs to make it glow.

 

During a weekend in late June 2016, the weather was rather dull and it began to rain later in the afternoon. So instead of going out somewhere, we took a trip to the hardware store and came back with some wood and glue. The MDF base was a 48 x 24 inch 1/4 inch sheet off the shelf, but being a Sunday, the wood cutting section wasn't open. That wasn't a major concern as I had a circular saw that would cut the board down.

Before any cutting, we marked out the new board size and then the track positions, keeping my daughter as involved as possible from the start. Once it was drawn on, we squeezed the test track to conform with the track plan on the board, and test ran the loco and a couple of wagons to make sure they would handle the curves.

 

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While this isn't the usual type of railroad I've built, I found that even at the early stage of the build, I was very interested in the project, the research and what we could achieve. I've built well researched models before, based on prototypes, and I've built more fictional layouts based on preservation lines etc, but all have used prototypical rolling stock, buildings and scenery. This fictional fantasy layout was a leap in a new direction and would hopefully lead to some interesting new challenges and some unique models.

June 20th was a critical, high stress shopping day. I'd spotted some additional Kinder My Little Pony characters on Ebay, and in all, there were ten ponies for a £1.50 starting price. Kinder only made four different ponies in their set, and Ebay has provided parents with the ability to buy spares to make a complete set, as you never knew what you would get inside the Kinder egg. We had wanted some additional ponies to modify and repaint to make other characters, so ten for a very low starting price was a chance that couldn't be missed.

I placed one early bid at the starting price as soon as I spotted the auction so I'd get an email reminder if I forgot about the auction end time. It finished on the 20th, and there were no other bids during the morning. With about 6 minutes to go, another bid appeared! But how much was their maximum?? I could feel the stress as I didn't want to disappoint my daughter by missing them. I didn't want to push the price up with a late bidding war, so I waited until the last 10 seconds of the auction and placed a £33.00 bid, hopefully leaving no time for any counter bids ( it was only £3.00 per pony ). I won with my last second bid, and got the ten ponies for £4.21 plus post, making a grand total of £7.01. As I picked my daughter up from school and told her of the win, she was delighted.

With my heart rate now dropping back from 120bpm, I could focus on which ponies out of the original four, could be adapted and repainted to other ponies from the series. This will involve removal of some of the pegasi wings or unicorn horns, repaints and possibly dying some of the tails. We looked for ponies that had similar style hair and colours to try and minimise the amount of effort needed for each conversion. These are the planned conversions, most of which were made as planned.....

 

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While my daughter was at school the next day, I got the baseboard cut and the framework attached. The timber frame is only about 1 1/2 x 3/4inches, but as the board is so small anyway, it doesn't need a heavy duty frame.

 

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Nice thread, your daughter is very fortunate to have such an indulgent Dad, but with her modelling back ground, it sounds like quite a partnership. Modelling is modelling in a way & what you're doing sounds like a lot of fun with the reward of your daughters adoration at the end. Sounds like a win win to me. :) 

When I saw the header said daughter & MLP I knew instantly what it meant. I don't have daughters but do have nieces so knew about this stuff. :D 

.Steve.

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I wanted to scratch build a loco that looked like one of the locos from the TV show. The loco I want to adapt is an 0-4-0 saddle tank, painted in World War 1 Light Railway Operating Division markings. This was from a twelve feet long WW1 layout set in France, with a trench system, RFC airfield and bombed out town, built back in the late 1970's/early 80's ( I can't recall for sure ). Narrow gauge railways were used to take ammunition and supplies to the front line, and bring wounded back. The picture below was taken some time after its last use, so the paintwork has faded, and the aircraft overflying the trenches and those on the airfield are missing.

 

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As can be seen from the pictures below, the two locos I've seen in the series are 4-4-0's in an early US railroad style. I want to try and capture the look of Ponyville as accurately as I can, but also don't want to spend a fortune on new rolling stock, just to butcher it. This is a semi-toy after all, not a every last nut and bolt copy of an original railroad. I hoped I could add a leading set of wheels to the 0-4-0 tank, and scratch build a new body. 

 

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I found a truck from an N scale boxcar in the spares box, and decided to see what could be done with it. Now while the locos in the picture have the leading wheels exposed, I don't have any trucks like that. I may yet scratch build a truck to carry the wheels, but for now, just wanted to do some testing. I cut the front chassis down on the loco, where the coupler was moulded, then drilled it for a bolt. A small brass bar formed the arm that the truck would articulate from, and another bolt helt that in place. A test run around the running-in track showed it worked, but it did stick forwards from the driving wheels a long way. Still, the basic concept was there and would just need developing.

 

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The next step was to cut the front of the chassis off altogether, and redrill the chassis closer to the pistons. This brought the articulating bar further back, pulling the leading wheels back too. While not perfect, I think it is the best compromise. The new shorter chassis was then test run again, down to about a 6 inch radius, much smaller than the smallest curve on the layout. The track was then reformed to the inner station line which has the tightest curves, and the loco run again. The sideways movement of the leading wheels isn't too bad, and the new character style body should be wide enough to allow enough movement.

 

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The last couple of shots show the loco with the original body back on while sitting on the tightest curve on the layout. The front pivot bolt is still within the width of the original body and the new boiler can be built to accomodate the necessary movement.

 

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The motor in this loco had seen better days. I had another identical loco which seemed to have square wheels, as it shook and wobbled when running. The motor however was in better condition. That loco was put to one side for another day and it donated its motor to the scratch built loco.

 

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While I was pulling things to bits, I also removed the wheels and cleaned the pickups, wheels and lightly greased the gears.

 

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The wheels had a good layer of dirt built up on them. This loco last ran around 1981, and then has been sitting in a box unused ever since.

 

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June 22nd 2016 was sports day at school and after that was done, the kids were allowed home a little early. We took that apportunity to go to the local model shop for some bits and pieces. They didn't have any OO9 track in stock, apart from one 'Y' turnout, so our track list was ordered in for us.

 

We also got a little paint, track pins, a new track rubber and this set of dogs, to represent the "Timber Wolves" and "Diamond Dogs" characters from the show. The Diamond Dogs hoard diamonds and other gems in holes and tunnels underground, so we now are planning a small scene with some of these dogs guarding gems in holes in the baseboard; the gems represented by flickering LED's.

 

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Later in the day, I began work on the loco body. I found some plastic pipe which was cut for the boiler, with a brass tube glued in for the smoke stack. Before it was glue in, a block of modelling resin board was drilled and glued on, then turned in the lathe for the spark arrestor.

 

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The cab is being made in a couple of stages. The first box seen here is really just a foundation to build the cab onto. This locates the cab securely over the motor/gearbox, to stop any movement. The front face is the start of the next layer which will form the cab shape ( once trimmed ). These parts will be solid sheet styrene. The last layer will have window openings cut in, and once glued on, will form the outer face of the cab. The recessed openings will be painted for the windows.

 

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Initially the boiler had to slide off forwards and the cab vertically to clear the motor and other internal parts. It was going to need additional work to allow the body to be one piece that would lift off vertically.

 

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While loco parts were drying, I started marking out the baseboard in more detail to check on sizes of features and space available. From past experience, a 2D plan or 3D rendering always look different to real life. The layout board is tiny at 3 x 2 feet, so I wanted a better feel of how the features would fit together.

 

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The loco and some wagons were used to estimate the station platform size, which then dictated the station building size and location. That then gave the position of Twilight Sparkle's Oak Tree Library, the road and other buildings.

 

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Going a step further, some mock buildings were cut from some scrap wood to work out heights and how they would work together. A board and some styrene were used to define the backscene position.

 

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The same process was repeated for the other side of the layout, plotting out the Crystal Empire, Everfree Forest, river, and Froggy Bottom Bog.

 

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Back on the loco, the boiler had a little more structure added, which with other components, will help blend the new body into the original chassis.

 

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The cab had some styrene added to the bottom to help locate it and provide a fixing location for the coupler. The first styrene box around the motor is a tight fit to help keep the damaged 1980's pickups in place on the motor contacts. This isn't square, so the next step was the lower part of the inner cab walls which can be seen clamped here.

 

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The upper part of the cab will be wider at the roof to match the show loco. The outer cab structure with windows can then be added on top of that layer.

 

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In the last couple of days of Jun 2016, the loco was beginning to look like a loco! The inner layer of the cab is fitted here and the outer layer at the front of the cab with the heart shaped window.

 

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Just before we went away for the weekend, the postman brought the Ebay auction Kinder ponies. I didn't know when I'd make a start on modifying and repainting them. The Summer holiday hadn't started and there was still school work to do. We also had lots of 1940's events to attend in the following few weeks. While it was meant to be a school holiday project, there was no pressure to have it all done by the end of the holidays.

 

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The flexitrack from the model shop arrived on the last day of June, but the turnout that arrived was the wrong hand; so that's been re-ordered. I also ordered a number of LED's for the layout, including some 'rainbow' coloured LED's to illuminate the Crystal Empire in various alternating colours. 

 

In the first week of July, the teachers were on strike for a day, so little legs was off school. So what better way to fill in the day than by working on the railroad! We actually started by working on the fuel bowser for her Spitfire diorama, and then while glue and filler was drying on that, moved on to the railroad.

We began with cutting out the baseboard for the bog and river. My little 12 volt mini jigsaw has quite a fragile blade, so I did the cutting while my daughter vacuumed up the dust as I went.

 

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After that, I wanted to chamfer the edge of the river bank and bog. To do that, I fitted a cone shaped 'Permagrit' tool into my minidrill, to grind away the baseboard. My daughter did that part while I vacuumed up the dust.

 

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After working all around the holes, we had some nicely chamfered edges. The ground level would be built up in places around here to varying heights. The river would be coming down a hillside, so in the hill areas, we didn't cut the baseboard. The transition from the elevated part of the river to the baseboard level will be a small waterfall.

 

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With the base cut, we then glued a piece of 1/8 ply under the layout to form the base of the bog and riverbed.

 

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With the river area done, we moved onto the track bed. This was to be raised up slightly from the baseboard, and I cut a number of strips of 1/8 ply wood which were glued down.

 

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To allow the ply to curve, a number of slots were cut into the strip on the bandsaw. It was then glued and weighted down to dry.

 

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After testing the two locos we had on a test track incline, we began elevating the inner track bed, on its way up to the station.

 

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I don't think a day has ever gone so fast. We only had two half hour breaks, both of which we watched some "Research" episodes of 'MLP' and had lunch during one!

 

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She looks really young back then too, even though it's only a couple of years ago. I think she had all four front teeth missing too!

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The backscene was fitted on July 7th '16. It was made from two sheets of 1/8 Hardboard, with both rough sides glued together to help hold the curve in the backscene. It was also glued to the raised area that will support the station and buildings. This was a job I did on my own, as it was quite a difficult operation forming and clamping the sheets together.

 

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It took lots of clamping and bracing against the wall and the track bed to hold the curve the way I wanted it.

 

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