Trees and trestle

I’ve been doing more work around the trestle in the Lynn Valley – and I’m really impressed by the difference all the new trees make to the scene. Here’s a sampler:

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More words in the fullness. But I’ve burned through a Wallin-sized bottle of extra-hold hair lacquer and despite running the paint booth while doing this, the stuff has given me a headache. Plus – every time I shake my head, Selkirk Leaves fall out of my hair.

Time to get outside.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep

With apologies to Robert Frost…
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I’m waiting for some detail parts to arrive for my tobacco kilns, so I’ve set them aside for now. Instead, I’ve been working at the other end of St. Williams – the west end where (on my layout, at least) the line passes over Stone Church Road then plunges into the Lynn Valley en route to Port Rowan. With time on my hands this weekend I pulled the wire tree armatures from this area and turned them into finished trees, following my usual take on the Gordon Gravett method.

This area has looked pretty much like this since last summer:
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Now, it looks like this:
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Much, much better, I think.

Before planting any trees, I added fence lines between the road overpass and the trestle. The white-painted boards and posts near the overpass nicely frame the scene:
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I did not bother adding the white boards at the other end of the fence as it’s out of sight – and I’m not going to add fences between here and Port Rowan because I feel they’ll clutter the scene unnecessarily.

Once the fences were in place, I added bushes along the fence lines, then shorter trees behind those, then taller trees behind the shorter trees. My tallest trees are about a foot high and create a leafy canyon through which the line runs. In effect, it’s a short tunnel – a view block to separate St. Williams from the Lynn River and give operators the feeling of going places:
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At the other end of this new stand of trees – near the trestle over the Lynn River – I planted trees in arrangements that would disguise the point where the river meets the backdrop:
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Since the forest here is supposed to continue beyond the fascia, the tall trees at the front of the layout have leaf canopies only at their top. The branches in the forest are devoid of leaves for the most part. This provides an interesting view of a train as it rolls through the valley:
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(Note the ferns on the forest floor. These are HO scale details from JTT-Microscale and I’ll be planting more throughout the forest.)

Finally, I added a visual reinforcement of the ambient audio in this area by installing a mated pair of cardinals in one of the trees. (These are from the same source as the Redwing Blackbirds in the meadow at Port Rowan.) Now, when people hear a cardinal call, they’ll be able to see the source:
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(Hmm: It looks like there’s another male in the distance at right. Get ready for a noisy territorial sing-off!)

This newly scenicked area will give visitors a better idea of my plans for the rest of the Lynn Valley. That said, I planted about 20 trees here over the weekend and based on that I expect I’ll have to build another 80-90 trees to complete the valley scene. Fortunately, the armatures – which take the longest – can be twisted while watching TV, minding a pot of stew in the kitchen, etc., so it shouldn’t take that long.

Besides – I’m inspired now, and keen to see the completed valley!

Trestle and Trees

It takes a lot of trees to fill a layout and I’ve found the best way to tackle the task is to try to do a few each week. Last week I twisted up a few more armatures and planted them in the space back of the trestle in the Lynn Valley.

One of these days, I will have to remove the armatures from the layout, mount them on some foam board, and start building up the trunks with flexible modelling paste. But not just yet. Meantime, I’m enjoying twisting these armatures and building up scenes in my imagination.

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Lynn Valley trestle finished

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I’ve been working on scenery in the Lynn Valley this week, which required me to finish the trestle. It’s been installed for a while, but I never got around to adding the abutments.

The problem was, without the abutments in place I could not finish the ground cover around the trestle:
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Some S scale 2″x12″ boards and some 3/16″ dia. dowel did the job in no time at all:
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I still need to detail the river but pretty soon, my swans will have some water.

Below is an overview of the scene. I still need to add broadleaf trees to this area, using techniques from Gordon Gravett’s excellent book, Modelling Trees. The conifers – from my friend Dave Burroughs at MountainView Depot – will get repositioned as I do this.
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Lynn Valley trestle: Installation underway

Installing the trestle in the Lynn Valley.

With the riverbed in place, I’ve decided I can now install the Lynn Valley Trestle.

It’s not easy to see, but in the above view of the trestle, the bents sit in notches carved into the foam board scenery base. In fact, they float in these notches, just above the plywood riverbed.

I started by spiking the rails on either side of the trestle to secure it in place. I then spooned ballast into the notches to fill them, and applied dilute white glue to lock the ballast around the bents:

Installing the Lynn Valley trestle.

There’s more scenery detailing to be done, including staining the ballast a darker colour. Next steps include building the wing walls for the abutments, building the scenery up to track level, and detailing the riverbed and banks.

A river raising party

Last night four friends joined me for a river raising party.

Chris Abbott, Mark Harris, Vince Pugliese and Mark Zagrodney lent their hands and eyes to raising a plywood riverbed – approximately 1’x3′ and with the beginnings of scenery on it – until it just kissed the bottom of the bents on the Lynn River Trestle. We then levelled the riverbed to the best of our abilities by adjusting various risers clamped to the benchwork.

It’s quite a nest of structural framing underneath the trestle. I’ve marked some of the wood in the below photo of the riverbed as follows:

– the red pieces are part of the framing system that keeps the roadbed in alignment on each side of the trestle.
– the blue pieces are just a few of the risers we installed last night to support the riverbed.

Raising the river in the Lynn Valley.

It took a fair bit of fiddling but with so many hands and eyes on the job, it was much easier than it would’ve been with just one or two people. Thanks, everyone, for the help! I’m pleased with how closely we got the riverbed to fit under the trestle:

Raising the river under the trestle.

Even though there’s still much to be done, I can already imagine what the finished scene will look like…

Raising the river under the trestle.

When satisfied, we drove home the screws and retreated to Harbord House to celebrate our victory.

Lynn Valley trestle progress

Progress on the trestle.

My friend Chris Abbott dropped in for a visit last night after an appointment in the neighbourhood and we returned to the Lynn Valley Trestle project.

The trestle project has been packed away since mid-November while I focussed on other things, but it’s now going to start holding up laying track on the mainline out of Port Rowan so it was good to get it back on the bench.

Chris worked on gluing and pinning the piles to the cap. As he finished each one, he’d pass it to me to add sway braces and bolt details. By the end of the night, we had essentially finished the trestle.

Looking at the trestle this morning I realized it was done enough that I could cut into the roadbed to test fit it on the layout, so I did. It fits and is going to look really nice:

Trestle test-fit.

Trestle test-fit.

As the view from the riverbed suggests, the next task will be levelling the river and securing the base under the bridge. That’ll take several sets of hands, but I’ve already sent out the invitations for a riverbed raising party.

Chris likes curry and we happened to have some in the house, so that was dinner after our work session.

Julie Sahni has a terrific recipe for Badaami Murgh (Chicken Smothered in Aromatic Herbs and Almonds) in her book, Classic Indian Cooking. Almond butter, onions, garlic, ginger root, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, cumin, coriander, tumeric, tomatoes and more combine for a fragrant, complex sauce that’s smooth and creamy.

Awesome and a complete meal with basmati rice and a refreshing brew, such as the Organic Lager from Mill St. Brewery.

Eggnog isn’t the only thing that’s going to be spiked this Christmas

That’s because (drum-roll, please) I’ve started to lay rail!

First rails. Proto:87 Stores spikes on a deck girder bridge.

Now, I am cheating a bit. I’ve started laying rail on the three bridges, because I can work at the bench. In fact, I realized I was better off working at the bench while doing the bridges so I could properly support the structures while spiking the rail to their decks. (I’ll do the same with the rails over the pit at the coal dealer in Port Rowan.)

For spikes, I’m trying something different this time. I’m using scale sized spikes from Proto 87 Stores* – part of their “Ultimate” line of HO track. As Andy Reichert at Proto 87 Stores writes on his website, these are “precision milled from half-hard stainless steel sheet”. This means they’re a more realistic shape and they drive home much like a real spike does, by splitting the grain of the tie. (The more traditional round, wire spike tends to push the grain apart. I’ve also found that these stainless spikes are less likely to bend when using them than the wire spikes.)

The downside? Well, it’s not really a downside, but they are darned small:

Now that's a small spike! Proto:87 Stores spikes, with ruler.

The spikes I’m using are the style Andy offers for O and S scale. They’re about 3/16″ long, which works out to 6″ in S scale. Even the tiniest needle nose pliers tend to engulf them. I was able to use a pair of long-jawed needle nose pliers to install the spikes but will look at how to modify this set of pliers so they’re more like Micro Mark’s spike insertion pliers.

Are they worth it? Well, have a look and decide for yourself.

In this view, we’re looking down on the bridge, with a fret of spikes adjacent. (The spikes come in single frets of 250 or, as seen here, a four-fret size with 1,000.)

Proto:87 Stores Spikes - fret and bridge.

The heads are barely visible, as they would be on a real railroad. I’ve used Code 70 for the running rails and Code 55 for the guard rails. (Using a smaller rail height for the guard rails means I won’t be scrubbing away the weathering whenever Iím cleaning the track.)

I spiked the running rails to every tie. For the guard rails, I added spikes every fourth tie. I was pleased to discover that these spikes are small enough that the guard rails could be spaced very close – at the correct distance from the running rails – without the spikes getting in the way.

Despite their small size, the spikes show up well when one views the track from near eye-level, as in the lead photo. They’ll be particularly effective in photographs.

(I also note that a couple of my spikes are sitting a little high in the lead photo. That’s fine: In looking at photos of the Port Rowan branch I’ve noticed a number of spikes working themselves out of the ties due to the passage of trains, so it’s perfectly prototypical.)

I’m glad I decided to give these spikes a try. Thank you, Andy, for pushing the boundaries of what’s possible for accurate, realistic track-laying.

(*Check the “Links” section on this blog’s home page for the most up-to-date links)

Work begins on the Lynn Valley Trestle

My friend Chris Abbott had an appointment downtown this week, so we arranged a brief work session. Rather than tackle more full-size lumber projects, I thought it would be fun to work together on a model.

Since getting the benchwork, roadbed and ties in place, I’ve realized that it would be great to have the three bridges I need for the layout ready to go before laying rail. Those bridges include a trestle in the Lynn Valley, and it seemed like a good project to tackle.

Lynn Valley trestle.

The prototype is straight, and has about 15 bents. Because of space limitations, I’ve had to select a location on the layout that will only allow for a curved, six-bent trestle. (That’s fine: I can live with this compromise because low, pile trestles were quite common on railways throughout North America so it’ll look right at home.)

Roadbed - Lynn Trestle.

Chris took on the task of building a fixture to glue up posts and cap into bents. He used .060″ styrene sheet and some strip styrene for this:

Trestle bent assembly fixture.

Chris also cut and distressed the caps. They can be seen in the upper right of the photo, below. This image also shows the stained dowels that we’ll cut into posts:

Prepping trestle posts.

Meanwhile, I tackled the stringers and ties that make up the trestle’s floor system. I traced the roadbed onto a piece of kraft paper. Then, since I would be building this trestle upside down, I transferred my tracing to the other side of the paper so I’d have a mirror image. I then laid a piece of tape sticky side up over my mirror image tracing and stuck ties to it. The stringers were then cut and glued to the ties.

When everything was dry, I carefully removed the assembly from the tape and stained it, using a black weathering wash from Hunterline. I did the caps and dowels at the same time:

Trestle deck construction - from below.

When this was dry, I went over the tops of the ties with thinned burnt umber oil paint to give them a brown tone. I’m quite pleased with the result:

Trestle deck construction - from above.

Two books from Kalmbach are proving themselves very handy for this project. The first is Model Railroad Bridges and Trestles, a compilation of articles from 30 years of Model Railroader magazine. The second is The Model Railroader’s Guide to Bridges, Trestles and Tunnels. I recommend them both for any hobbyist’s library.

I look forward to the next time Chris and I get together to work on the trestle. It’s fun to see this coming together.

During our work session, Chris and I each enjoyed a pint of Stonecutter Scotch Ale from the Renaissance Brewing Company of New Zealand. And we finished the day at Rancho Relaxo. Not my favourite Mexican restaurant in Toronto – but Rancho is cheap, filling and close by.