Bathing Beauties – on film

When my wife and I visited the Lynn Valley in 2011, we discovered a small herd of cattle bathing in the river near the twin-span steel deck girder bridge. (Click on the picture below for more on the cattle.)
Bathing Cows! photo LynnValley-03.jpg

I’ve been working on the Lynn River scene near the water tank and wanted to add a bit of ambient sound to the scene to help bring the cows to life. This will be particularly important once I get the rest of the trees built for this area, as they will overhang the river making the cattle less obvious – and therefore a small reward for those who go looking for details on the layout.

Following yesterday’s visit from my friend Hunter Hughson, in which we ran a freight extra to Port Rowan and back, I restaged the train as it appeared after switching the terminal.

Here’s Bathing Beauties – a short video taken as Extra 80 East crosses the Lynn River:

(You can also click here to watch this video on YouTube – where you may be able to view a larger version.)

Yes, I still need to pour the water. I’m not yet ready for that. Stay tuned.

Since I’m thinking about audio a lot these days, I’ll reiterate what I wrote about the turntable video I posted ealier today:

All the sound on this video is natural – i.e.: picked up by the condenser mic on the camera, with no fiddling in the editing suite. The locomotive sound is generated by the on-board Soundtraxx Tsunami decoder, feeding two speakers – a small one in the boiler and a larger, high-bass model in the tender.

The ambient sound includes bird calls, the cattle, and – very, very quietly – some river burbling. I’m representing a fairly sedate river so the only noise the water would make is the occasional eddy around obstructions, like the centre pier of the bridge. And cow legs.

Background trees

Background trees photo LynnValley-BKTrees.jpg

While looking for something else, I came across a stash of Scale Tree armatures in a rubber tub under the layout.

Remember Scale Tree? The company created armatures and canopy materials for big trees. (Scale Tree went into hibernation in 2004, but the web site still exists if you want to have a look.)

I’ve decided I want to try my hand at tree modelling using the techniques described by Gordon Gravett in his book, Modelling Trees. (I’ve written about Volume 1 previously – and have just ordered Volume 2.)

But, I have a lot of real estate to cover, and some of that real estate is a couple of actual feet away from the fascia. I have a deep corner behind the water tank in the Lynn Valley, and I realized the Scale Tree armatures could be put to good use there. So, today I built some trees – trimming and shaping the armatures, adding netting, spritzing with hair spray and sprinkling on leaves by Selkirk Scenery and Woodland Scenics.

They don’t hold a candle to Gordon’s trees, but they fill the corner and allow me to put my full effort into the foreground models.

The lead photo is an overview, looking up the cow path to the Lynn River. Scale Trees and evergreens from my friend Dave Burroughs at MountainView Depot mix nicely in this scene. They create a nice neutral background for the water tank, which will be surrounded by foreground trees as soon as I start twisting wire armatures:
Tank and new trees (2) photo Tank-1stNewTrees-02.jpg

Up close, one doesn’t even notice that the scene does not have enough trees in it:
Tank and new trees (3) photo Tank-1stNewTrees-03.jpg

As I add trees, I will include a thicker line of them along the Lynn River at this point. But I will have to be careful to leave this view available to operators and visitors. I like it:
Tank and new trees (1) photo Tank-1stNewTrees-01.jpg

More Terra Foama

Lynn Valley steel bridge - terrain overview.

That’s what I call foam board terrain – and I’ve been installing quite a bit of it around the steel girder bridge over the Lynn River.

As previously noted, I’ve decided I need to get some scenery work done around the bridges on my layout before I permanently install them.

I’ve now installed foam board along both banks of the river, and have started to shape it into basic terrain. I’ll fill in gaps with plaster or spackle and then paint it, but will need to get the mounts for my backdrop in place before I do any further scenery work:

Lynn Valley steel bridge - terrain overview.

I’m using No More Nails Ultra, available in caulking tubes, to glue my foam board to wood supports and to other bits of foam board. It’s safe for foam, fairly mess-free, and sets relatively quickly. I can stack foam to build rough shapes, leave it overnight, and shape it the next day.

I’ve been working for a bit each day over the Christmas holidays and am very pleased with my progress.

The shape of things to come

First railfan photo: the steel bridge over the Lynn River.

I’ve started to work on scenery!

Yes, I know – I’ve barely started on track. So what gives?

I decided that doing the scenery under and around the bridges would be easier without the bridges in the way – safer for the bridges, too. So I’ve started adding land forms around the abutments of the twin-span steel girder bridge over the Lynn River:

Lynn Valley steel bridge - terrain.

I’ve added a plywood base for the river, and defined its edges with some leftover cork roadbed. I’ve also added some 1″x2″ on risers, just under the roadbed, to support expanses of blue foam board – there’s a support at the left of the scene:

Lynn Valley steel bridge - terrain overview.

Between the support and the riverbed, I’m installing slices of blue foam board, vertically. I’ve done four to each side of the abutments, and filled in the space under the bridge with more foam board. This foam has been roughly shaped – I’ll do final shaping when the rest of it is in, then start adding plaster, paint, grass, rocks, sandbanks, etc.

I need to decide how much of this scenery work to do before I install the bridge. Obviously, I can’t run trains through here until the bridge is in place and the rails are spiked to the abutments (although I can mock up the scene to see what it will look like). But the more I do before I install the bridge, the easier it will be.

My thoughts are to work on the scenery in the corner of this area, out towards the track, then lay the track, then continue the scenery out to the fascia.

I’m a long way from running trains, but it’s great to get this taste of the shape of things to come.

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)

Steel pier: Thanks Jeff!

A while ago, I wrote about building the steel pier for my model of the deck girder bridge in the Lynn Valley.

The steel pier for the Lynn Valley deck girder bridge.

At the time, I wrote:

I don’t know if this pier – a collection of structural steel shapes – is original to the railroad or whether it was built when the line was converted to a rail trail. But it’s too interesting to ignore, so I’m going to model it as it is today.

Today, I was very pleased to learn from reader Jeffrey Smith that this interesting pier is correct for the era I’m modelling. He wrote to tell me that the CNR used this structural steel pier design in its Central Region to replace aging masonry piers. Jeff included a link to an article from 1940 that’s posted on his website, CNR In Ontario*, that describes their use. Here’s the article, which notes the railway’s use of structural steel piers dates back to the late 1930s.

Thanks so much, Jeff – and thanks for calling attention to your web site. I encourage everyone to give it a visit. I just did and found this interesting capsule history of the line that I’m modelling.

(As an aside, I’m really enjoying writing this blog because of the many helpful people who have commented on my postings. I’m learning things that will help me do a better job on my layout – and making new friends along the way!)

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

Bridge mockups

I’ve built and installed abutments for the two steel bridges on my layout and thought I’d mock up a couple of scenes to assess how they look. So here goes…

Lynn Valley twin-span girder bridge - mock-up.

I’ve built a twin-span steel girder deck bridge based on the prototype structure across the Lynn River on the adjacent Port Dover branch. This is known as the Pennington Bridge today, and is part of the Lynn Valley Rail Trail.

Obviously, I must still paint the abutments, add rail and so on. The scenery will come up to the bottom of the centre pier, too – until then, I must squint and imagine a narrow slice of daylight between bridge and river, plus all those trees framing the scene.

Inspired by a short span across Stone Church Road in Rymal – well away from what I’m modelling on the layout but still crossed by the trains that worked the Port Rowan branch – I’ve included a short steel girder deck bridge across a road just south of St. Williams. No, it’s not there on the prototype, but it’ll be a nice spot to photograph trains:

Stone Church Road bridge - mock-up.

Lynn Valley girder bridge pier

Lynn Valley deck girder bridge - pier under construction.

Deck girder bridges can be pretty simple affairs so I was quite pleased that the example I’m modelling – from the Lynn Valley – has a rather elaborate middle pier:

Lynn Valley deck girder bridge.

I don’t know if this pier – a collection of structural steel shapes – is original to the railroad or whether it was built when the line was converted to a rail trail. But it’s too interesting to ignore, so I’m going to model it as it is today.

Some time at the bench and I have my model pier. (And a special thanks to my friend Chris Abbott, who lives closer to a hobby shop than I do and who picked up some of the styrene shapes for me this week.)

For those keeping score, the modelled pier includes the following Evergreen styrene shapes:
264 = .125″ Channel
275 = .188″ I-beam
285 = .156″ H-column
291 = .060″ Angle

And yes, the glass of calvados in the background helped.

A deck girder bridge for the Lynn Valley

Deck girder birdge - Lynn Valley.

One of the two bridges I need to build for my layout is a two-span, deck girder bridge.

I decided fairly early on that I’d use the popular HO scale 50-foot deck girder bridge kit from Micro Engineering. (Kit 75-501) In S, these kits work out to about 37 feet and a pair of them will fit my space nicely.

Since I need these bridges to complete the work on the roadbed I installed yesterday, I decided to get cracking.

The kits are quick to assemble although they need a fair bit of filing and sanding to clean up flash and the plastic used in the kits seems quite soft, so it doesn’t file cleanly. I’ll need to go over my bridges carefully to remove fuzz.

I made an interesting discovery while building these. In HO, the girders are spaced wider than track gauge, which means that the full weight of the trains is carried on the ties, not passed through to the girders. The photo below shows the Micro Engineering bridge track that came with the kits, placed on top of a finished bridge:

ME bridge with HO track.

By contrast, the girders are spaced almost perfectly for S scale track. As shown in the photo below, I placed the same bridge on one of my S scale turnout building fixtures from Fast Tracks. Note how the groves for the rail line up almost exactly with the girders:

ME bridge on S scale turnout fixture.

I’m sure other S scalers knew this, but I was delighted to find that the bridge is an even better fit for S than it is for HO. I was even more delighted that I would not have to rebuild all the bracing that connects the two girders!

Walking through the Lynn Valley

Lynn Valley Rail Trail.

The weather was particularly conducive to saying “bother housework” yesterday, so my wife and I took the two dogs for a walk in the country – specifically, along part of the Lynn Valley Trail.

The trail uses the former roadbed of the Canadian National Railway between Simcoe and Port Dover, Ontario. It was served by the same mixed train that operated to Port Rowan. This train would travel down from Hamilton to Simcoe, continue to Port Rowan, then return to Simcoe and run down to Port Dover before heading back to Hamilton.

While in Simcoe on the run to Port Rowan, it seems that the locomotive would sometimes cut off and head a short distance into the Lynn Valley to the large wooden water tank for a drink before continuing to Port Rowan. (I’m told one can still find the footings for the tank, although I didn’t go looking for them during yesterday’s hike.)

I don’t have room to model both branches out of Simcoe, but I thought the water tank scene and the bridges over the Lynn River were too good to pass up, so I’m moving this segment of the Port Dover branch slightly west to the Port Rowan line. It’ll be a good place to practice tree-building, too, since the river is quite overgrown:

Lynn Valley - Trestle from below.

The trail still uses four original railway bridges to cross the Lynn River and I wanted to see what those looked like. We didn’t walk the whole trail, but did see what are now known as the Pennington and Robinson bridges:

Lynn Valley - Pennington Bridge.

Lynn Valley - Robinson bridge.

From the Pennington bridge, we spotted some cattle cooling off in the Lynn River:

Cows bathing in the Lynn River.

That’ll make a great vignette on the layout.