Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Modelling a chain wire fence

I must be a glutton for punishment! Not only have I been spending a lot of time stringing five strand barb wire fences but I have also been building a chain wire fence around the local colliery at Philip's Creek.

There are a number of articles on the internet as well as one in AMRM (June 2006) suggesting different methods, and the one that I have used is an amalgamation of several. Even so, a bit of experimentation and decision making was necessary before my methodology was finalised.

I suppose the first decision to make was whether to adopt a prefabricated approach where the fence is constructed 'off-site' and then placed on the layout; or to place the individual posts and then fix the simulated chain wire to these. I chose the prefabricated approach because I thought it would be easier to manage the construction as well as less chance of collateral damage to other scenic elements. I accepted that placing two fence 'modules' side by side creates an unrealistic double post arrangement.

The second decision to make concerned materials. Initially, I tried using thin round styrene but after assembling one section, I found that it lacked sufficient rigidity. I settled on 0.8mm dia brass wire for both the posts and the horizontal top and bottom runners. This wire is a little oversized for the vertical posts and significantly oversized for the horizontal members but when it is all in place on the layout, the scale difference is not really visible. Furthermore, it provides a fairly robust frame for later manipulation and placement.

It was also necessary decide on the material to simulate the chain wire mesh. A number of websites suggest the use of a fabric called tulle. Fortunately my wife had a few offcuts so I tried it out on one section. I thought that it looked more like oversized chicken wire rather than the diamond shape of the chain wire mesh. So I opted to use the other common solution, commercial nylon flywire. Again, this is oversized but it gives the overall appearance of a chain wire fence.

For the longer fencing runs, I created modules each of six panels. Other shorter sections of the fence were made to measure. Each module consisted on single top and bottom runners and the appropriate number of vertical posts. I appreciate that many fences replace the bottom runner with a tensioned wire but this is not universal and the lack of a bottom runner reduces the rigidity of the frame. Besides, it's easy to hide the bottom runner behind additional weeds and foliage.

Each length of wire was longer than required so that it could be cut to size later. I notched both the horizontal and vertical members to allow them to sit flush and then each joint was soldered. The basic frame is shown opposite just prior to gluing the mesh to the frame. I found superglue was best for this activity.

Once the glue had dried, surplus mesh was cut away and the wire trimmed to length. I used elasticised cotton to create the three strands of barb wire that frequently tops this type of fence. Often this part of the fence is bent forward and this would be a simple matter to do once the module was completed. However, I preferred to leave the barb wire section in the vertical plane.

Once completed, each module received a coat of grey primer followed by a wash of silver and reddy brown.

Gates were fashioned in a similar manner but with an added diagonal brace on each panel. For my model, each gate was fitted in the open position.
The final photo shows most of the fence and gates in place. The bottom of each post can be pushed into the ground and then glued in place . Once the fixed panels are in place, the gates are glued into their desired position.

In reality, after spending a fair bit of time over the last few month building fences of various types, they almost seem to disappear into the scene as if they had always been there and there is little to show for this labour. I suppose, that is the consequence of 'modelling the ordinary'!

Additional Information

In response to Col's request the following three photos show more distant views of the chain wire fence. The tulle material has been used on the first nine fence panels counting from the left.



  1. Replies
    1. Oscar,

      Thanks for the comment.

      I was glad to see from your recent post that you improved the running characteristics of your 35 and 36 classes. I haven't used a 'stay alive' in my 36 class but did fit extra pickups to the tender. That work alone significantly improved its performance.

      cheers Phil

  2. Phil all looks excellent.

    I have not long finished a section of lineside fencing on both sides of the track, I used timber sleepers for posts & glued them into the base board at 20ft centres, the sleepers were pre drilled to take elastic knitting cotton, a bit of a pain but found the best way was to work out the amount of posts needed, then slip the elastic through all, then super glue that end with the thread looped around the top.

    I did not go any further than one strand in order to retain some degree of sanity & then cut lengths of bridal veil for the wire, I cut it wider, like you have done with the wire fence then slowing cut it back to a close enough height, & super glued it in place. I have left it natural colour as it looks like new wire/

    I have at least 3 areas in need of high wire fences like you have done, & wondered about the bridal viel being too small, but I thought the flyscreen may be too thick but likely more simple to make using it, While the photo's do tend to show that aspect, no doubt they are taken relativelly close to the structures to highlight them.

    Which leaves me wondering how they look at a bit more of a distance, & could you post a couple of photo's taken a bit further back please.



  3. Col,

    Thanks for the comment. I have updated the post to incorporate a few more distant photos. The camera lens, as always, highlights the difference between the tulle and fly wire panels but the difference doesn't seem that obvious.

    cheers Phil

    1. Phil

      Thanks for the new piccies.

      The 1st one is really the telling shot for me, its basically at an appropriate distance where one can look at the work & not notice to much with the wire being too big or not. If it was too big I think it would have allowed too much of the scene behind the wire to be blocked, whereas how it is its see through yet at the same time the fence is also on show with the wire being noticeable but not taking over.

      I also agree with you on the reply to James, as the diagonal mesh is what is needed.

      James your Moree layout I enjoyed watching its progress, especially the depot scenes, as I had a fair bit of working into Moree when I was at WCK. The old sand bin at Moree was from an oil burner tank from a wampu tender. An interesting contraption. Look forward to new posts from you.

  4. Phil,
    On my Kamilaroi Layout, which I have since sold, I used Sentinel Industrial fencing and Black Bridal Tulle and I think it did a "fine" job. Check it out on my blog around the fuel depot at "Kamilaroimodelrailway.blogspot.com".

    1. Jim,

      Thanks for the comment.

      I had another look at the photos you mentioned and the fencing around the fuel depot looks good. My only criticism of tulle as a model of chain wire mesh is that it has a basic hexagonal shape whereas chain wire presents a diamond pattern. I'm the first to acknowledge that tulle is much finer than the flywire mesh that I used, but as a personal thing, I was prepared to accept the trade-off between texture and the thickness of the flywire mesh.

      Are you missing Kamilori?

      cheers Phil

    2. Phil,
      When I old Kamilaroi, I sold the trains, materials, everything.
      I do miss it at times, but I am kept busy helping members of our Hastings Group with their little problems. One day if they approve, I might add some of these things to the Blog.

    3. Look forward to reading them