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Through the eye of the needle, that was our first reaction to the outcome of this episode. And we did agree unanimously, the job was not nearly as strong compared to our first job. The theme was a tricky one; Mother Earth. One natural disaster we were given. Despite that, though, we are proud of the story we put out. A heavy meteorite impact that was to destroy the village. How on earth do you do such a thing?

The theme in itself we had prepared pretty well in advance, at least until we saw what the competition was building for model railroads. After the euphoria of the first episode, the realization came hard that we really couldn’t arrive with the plan as conceived on the drawing board. Initially, Alwin had built a rock that would be smashed in with a tennis ball. Nope, that’s not going to be enough to pass. So the entire rock wall had to be rebuilt and fitted with special effects.

A meteorite impact, how do you make it?
Good question! We were lucky that the episode 2 of the program was still in between, this gave us 5 extra construction days to take care of this. Because Alwin was busy in a move at the time, Martin, Arnaud, Tijn and Ellen dove in. They spent 4 days nonstop building a structure with a mountain wall. A real meteorite was recreated with “firetrail” imitation. A host of sound, smoke and light effects were built into the rock wall using four Arduino circuit boards. It had to be a true spectacle! If the meteorite were to strike, various actions were activated. Thus, 4 servos would cause the boulders to fall outward, 2 other servos caused the steeple to fall over and push out the facade of the residence. The buildings contained smoke and light effects to simulate fire. The bridge was also modified with two servos so that it would collapse when the train crossed the bridge. In the back wall of the mountain wall were many LEDs, for glow and impact effects. And to finish it off, behind the wall was a smoking room with 4 smoke generators and 4 fans. These would blow a large cloud of smoke out the wall during impact. All in all, it took a lot of work and the wall was also far from finished when we started the first day.

Real water on the track, are you all right?
You can argue a lot about that. But there still had to be something spectacular on the track next to the mountainside. With just the mountainside, we could not, at least we thought, make it. Martin came up with an addition to Ellen’s lake; a babbling brook, because a whitewater course is too risky. There was an immediate question from production as to whether this was wise, since apparently this is a taboo in model railroading. But Martin wouldn’t be Martin if he didn’t care much about that himself. If he has an idea and feels at all that it is realizable, he goes for it. And to good effect, it was unfortunately not broadcast. The stream flowed very nicely and was a nice addition to the scene. But we also had to admit, he didn’t stand out, the stream was too much lost in the background of the landscape. That was a missed opportunity, we had to conclude in retrospect.

To create the stream, Martin made a route out of PVC gutter, and filled it with flexible tile adhesive. After curing, it was lined with aquarium gravel and stones from the garden. To keep it completely watertight, substantial coats of exterior clearcoat were sprayed over it. Now the challenge is to keep the flow of the water constant, should you put a hose on top of the stream you would have no control over the amount of water flowing. To deal with this, Martin created two reservoirs. One at the beginning, filled with rocks and an overflow. As a result, the flow is always constant. The water flows, falling through a hole into a second reservoir. In it is located a small pump that pumps the water back up through a hose. And in this way, the idea of a quietly flowing stream became a reality after all.

Day 1: We are going to build
This time Alwin was there instead of Marcel, both members could not get all days off and in this way they alternated nicely. However, we did find out pretty quickly that as a team you just need a “Marcel,” yet without Alwin we wouldn’t have made it either. It lacked structure on all sides. But soon we were able to recover and end the day with much progression. Like the first episode, it was all about construction and engineering. A train had to run and we wanted the contours of the landscape formed.

Again, a plywood base was chosen for this, and the landscape built from XPS rigid foam. It builds nice and fast anyway and you can make all kinds of corrections to the design afterwards. And in itself the first day certainly didn’t go wrong, once we regained the structure everything ran smoothly and we were able to build quite smoothly. Cat in the box we thought… But that rock wall… how do you work it away a bit properly. In this, Ellen took the initiative. Until we discovered that her lake was cracked.

And no, not because of transportation. But afterwards it turned out that the cross beams of the structure were not level. During the screwing of the wooden plate, this created tension on the synthetic resin, resulting in a fracture. Juror Evan saw it happen and quickly rushed to the rescue with good advice and advice on how to fix this nicely. With a blow dryer, Ellen was able to disguise some of the cracks again, and with imitation waves the rest. In the end, the lake turned out all right. Thanks to Evan’s help, and Ellen’s patience, this little problem did not become a major problem. However, it did take a big bite out of our precious construction time.

Martin, meanwhile, was busy installing the stream, and that went faster and more successfully than expected. It was Arnaud, however, who found a challenge in fitting a moving bus. That was another one of those last-minute decisions. There must be some more running than 2 trains, and we still had a Car System set lying around. But this fitting you normally do alone, in peace, quiet with no one around you. Now this was different, 4 stressing teammates who were building everywhere did not make it easy for him. The first day was over, the trains had run….. But there was no mention of a model railroad yet.

Day 2: Leaks, Plaster, and the sleeper
And by…. Because we are far from there. So in the meantime, we also got to see what was being built by the other teams. The pressure was mounting and time was running out. Today everything had to work, the mountainside, the stream and the moving bus. Arnaud got busy working on the moving bus, Tijn and Ellen worked on the rock wall and Martin, who was fairly suffering from tension, went off to do something simple which was not entirely unimportant. All the XPS had to be finished with a layer of plaster. Alwin, who afterwards on this day managed to save the team from an early elimination, concentrated on what he is a star at. Creating small scenes on a model railroad. This proved especially useful when we were given diaper pants and a pair of curlers as sleepers. Alwin, like an artist, managed to create a scene with this that convinced the judges that we deserved an extra point! Not yet realizing that this would take the team to the next round. The scene with the bachelor party and the paratroopers was really brilliantly conceived and worked out.

While Martin was busy applying the plaster, he suddenly noticed that his pants were getting wet. And now it was quite warm at the time, but so warm that your pants start to leak…. No it leaked at the reservoir on the track! Afterwards, it turned out that he had been pushing against the tubing while plastering, causing the sealant in the reservoir to crack. Once that was fixed, the other reservoir also began to leak. The rubber ring in the screw cap did not seal properly. A rim of sealant in the screw cap worked wonders here, too. The stream flowed again nicely and quietly, but so by now it took quite a while.

Ellen, meanwhile, had gotten the mountain wall closed, along with Martin, it was quickly plastered so the mountain could be dry the next day…hopefully.

Day 3: The denouement
We were at a loss, the last day was upon us and there was still so incredibly much to be done. More than 80% of the job was still bare, parts of XPS were still visible and any kind of presentability was far from it. With only 4 construction hours on the clock, we had a hard head on whether this was going to work out. But giving up really wasn’t an option, it had to be done left or right just in 4 hours. Fortunately, the technology was just about ready, as in episode 1, the special effects were activated by hand. To leave nothing to chance, Arnaud had taken this upon himself. Today was his day, the day he focused entirely on collapsing the mountain wall. The meteorite had to hit the rocks via a wire at a specific point to get the effect right. Aligning, testing, re-aligning, rebuilding and testing again. Here Arnaud was having a hard time.

Meanwhile, Alwin and Ellen were busy greening and detailing the model layout. Martin and Tijn first put the focus on weathering the rails. With the airbrush, Martin colored the rails in a dark rust color, then Tijn added an aged color to the ballast bed with a black wash (highly diluted paint). Since this was finished fairly quickly, it didn’t take long for 4 men to work on decorating the track. The pace was fast, and then comes Andre with his whistle… Hands off!

And there suddenly stands a model railroad, not quite finished as we had hoped. But presentable and good enough to show to the Jury. But whether it would be enough, we fervently hoped for this, the intention to move on to the next episode was greater than the fear of losing weight. But we had to be realistic, we focused too much on the technology and special effects. As a result, we largely lost sight of the decoration. It felt a bit like the bouncing effect of a ball. We went high during “Unstoppable,” now we were caught off guard again.

But first to appear before the fence, we were the last team to appear. And after what felt like hours, we stood as a team in front of a job that should quickly become misery and drama. And the job did that right away. The presence of a huge number of cameras and transmitters caused the bridge’s Arduino board to go haywire. Even before we started, it seemed like the whole plan would not go through. Fortunately, Tijn switched gears quickly and crawled behind the track with a laptop to activate the bridge via software instead of a push button. We were saved from destruction in the nick of time. After Andre gave the starting gun, everything also ran as it was intended. The bus did drive around well for once, the V60 and the rail bus were moving around nicely and the special effects of the mountainside came across beautifully well. And as icing on the cake, the rail bus fell nicely into the lake with bridge sections and all.

But was it enough….. Nice when the judges respond enthusiastically. But we don’t know how it would have gone for the other team. Fortunately, the wait for the results did not take long and with pinched buttocks, 5 pink contestants stood in front of their lane watching Andre van Duin and the Jury.

Twice a 6, yes that was to be expected. We didn’t disagree either, we just weren’t as comfortable with this theme as we were during the first episode. But then you hear the last team’s points and they are half a point higher. Then, when there is also the realization that with the extra point of the sleeper you are still through, the discharge is very great!

The potential is there, but we must remember that we may be strong in technique, but too inexperienced in finishing. With the clear and reasoned explanation afterwards from Evan and Dianne in our pockets, we were warned, we have another chance! And so it feels, we now have two days to prepare Theme 4; Dutch Glory, to perfection…….. We are going to flame!

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