Scenery on The Roadshow – on TrainMasters TV

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(Chris Abbott looks on as I add leaves to what will become a whole mess o’ shrubs while behind us, a CNR intermodal train hauling a single-height stack of containers is barrelling past outside)

My layout gets a lot of compliments on the scenery – especially the large meadow around the turntable at Port Rowan. Those of you who want to see how I create meadows will enjoy the final, regularly-scheduled instalment of The Roadshow, currently playing on TrainMasters TV.

With my friend Chris Abbott in the studio to help, I demonstrate how I do basic ground cover, then add grass, bushes, weeds and flowers. The segment runs about an hour and covers all of the steps, step-by-step, to create basic yet convincing scenery, ready for super-detailing. While I model a railway set in the 1950s, I think my meadow-building techniques would make for a good start on the overgrown railway land bordering a modern right of way – the kind one sees right outside the TrainMasters TV studio.

Thanks, again, to TrainMasters TV brass hat Barry Silverthorn for letting me be a part of his terrific show.

Click on the image above – or follow this link – to start watching. You need to be a subscriber to TrainMasters TV to see it, but membership is quite reasonable.

Cooking show scenery

Yesterday, I visited Barry Silverthorn at the TrainMasters TV studios in Belleville to record another instalment of The Roadshow series. I was joined by my friend Chris Abbott, and we spent a delightful few hours in front of the cameras to craft a video on creating a meadow.

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(Barry and Chris look on as I lay out four work-in-progress boards, finished to various stages. Note the backlight on the cabinet, and the camera mounted on the ceiling)

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(Barry ponders a helicopter shot as Christian Cantarutti looks on. The monitor between them allows those on-camera to see what the ceiling-mounted camera is shooting. It takes a lot of people – and equipment – to make great TV)

To prepare for shooting day, I created four 12″ by 12″ demonstration pieces out of foam board insulation. These, I finished to various stages, each building on the previous stage:

1 – Plain foam, roughed up on one surface.
2 – Sculpta-mold applied to create some rolling terrain.
3 – Base coat of paint, plus various scatter materials, glued in place with dilute Weld-Bond.
4 – Static grass applied and airbrushed.

Chris and I used these as our starting points to demonstrate various techniques. (For example, we added scatter material to board number 2 and static grass to board #3.) On a layout, this work can take several days – mostly spent waiting for the previous step to dry. But when doing this on camera, it needs to be done in hours, not days. So the approach is similar to a cooking show, where recipes are prepared to various stages. Rather than wait for the glue to dry on a scenery board (or for the chicken to roast in the oven), we can simply move to the board that represents the next stage, and demonstrate what happens next.

Also like a cooking show, where recipes are tested and perfected before the camera rolls, doing the scenery boards ahead of time allowed me to think through what I wanted to demonstrate, what tools and materials I’d need for each step, and so on.

The result is that shooting the segment went smoothly and the final board looked really good. It received flowers, weeds and bushes on top of grass and basic ground cover, and I think TrainMasters TV subscribers will enjoy the process and like the results, when this segment airs this summer.

We even had a couple of great meals as part of the day. Chris and I started with breakfast at Fran’s – a Toronto institution since 1940. For lunch, Barry took us to The Boathouse for fish and chips: Yum!

Thanks, Chris, for coming along – always fun! And thanks as always, Barry, for allowing me to be a part of your awesome show!

“And such an instrument I was to use…”

“Is this an Olfa knife which I see before me / The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee.”

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(Chris recites the Olfa knife soliloquy)

Over the weekend, Chris Abbott joined me in the TrainMasters TV studio to demonstrate some best practices and neat ideas for wiring the two modules I’m building and documenting for the show. We covered a lot of ground – from installing drop feeders and track power mains… to using Anderson Power Poles for connections… to building our own cables for the throttle network and mounting the throttle panels… to adding strain relief to all wires and cables.

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TrainMasters TV brass hat Barry Silverthorn captured the process in electrons and seemed most pleased with our presentation, too. He even bought us lunch! (To be fair, he does that for everyone who takes part in the show…)

And of course, there are always trains to watch, since the studio is located next to one of the busiest mainlines in Canada:

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(Me and Barry, taking a break from making TV)

When we got home, my lovely wife invited Chris for dinner and – knowing that wiring is thirsty work – she’d even slipped out to grab some Cameron’s Auburn Ale for us. (Yay – beer!)

I’m really pleased with how the day went – and, it gets me closer to being ready for the exhibition at which I’ll join other members of the S Scale Workshop to entertain the public for two days. Thanks again, Chris!

The time is running out, however, so I’ve been working ahead. Today, I added ballast and started on basic ground cover on the two four-foot sections that are now wired:

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(Brown areas will receive crops while some of the green areas will be further enhanced with static grass – and a lot of fence lines will be required…)

I don’t consider this anywhere near finished, but if I get all sections done to this point they will at least be respectable enough to show.

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(I will have to go back over my track to scrape the ballast off the tie tops once the glue has dried: A single-edge razor blade makes a great scraper)

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(I opted for a gravel road through the underpass: The surface needs more work but this is a good start…)

I may have to cover some scenery-building techniques after the exhibition – fabricating dioramas as needed to demonstrate various approaches. We’ll see how things go.

Chris is coming over this week to help me with the wiring on the rest of the module sections. With luck and focus, we’ll get it done in an evening. That will give me some breathing space to demonstrate some basic ground cover during my next visit to the TrainMasters TV studio.

The clock is ticking…

Gordon Gravett v3 on the way

I’ve just gotten off the phone with Shirley Rowe at Wild Swan Publications: My copy of Volume 3 of the scenery modelling series by Gordon Gravett is on its way.

This volume covers grass and general landscape – including weeds, wild flowers, hedges, roads, pavements, mud, puddles and rivers. In short, all that stuff we should put under Gordon’s wonderful trees.

108 pages – £24.95 plus shipping. But it’ll be well worth it.

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Following my post earlier this week on adding weeds and bushes to the coal track, I had a wonderful phone call from my friend Bill Kerr. He really likes what I’m doing with the scenery (which is very high praise since he does brilliant work in this regard). He did, however, offer a couple of good suggestions, which I acted upon.

Bill noted that 50-60 years of coal dust around the bin itself would’ve killed a lot of vegetation, including all but the heartiest of weeds. Makes sense to me. So, I did some transplanting last night.

As a reminder, here’s how the scene looked earlier this week. The weeds are quite thick below the coal dock and up each side of the concrete bunker:
Coal Track with more weeds photo CoalTrack-Weeds-03_zps0f11f2c2.jpg

I’ve now thinned out this area, removing all but a few weeds in front of the concrete wall and adding some sand/gravel around the walls:
Fewer weeds around coal bin photo CoalTrack-Weeds-07_zps4f512a4f.jpg

I think it looks a lot better for a couple of reasons. First, it looks less like the coal dealer is planting a garden around his bin. And second, it makes the coal bin stand out more from the rest of the scenery along this track.

The weeds did not go to waste. I simply moved them elsewhere. Most went to the embankment at the end of the coal track:
More weeds and end of coal track photo CoalTrack-Weeds-08_zps846ca50e.jpg

Following another suggestion from Bill, I used the rest to narrow the path up the embankment so it looks more like a footpath (seen just to the left of the switch stand in this photo):
Narrower path up embankment photo CoalTrack-Weeds-09_zps8db04ad5.jpg

Thanks Bill – great feedback!

Crop Rows

What on earth did we do before miniNatur?

For those who have been living under a zip-textured rock, miniNatur is a German brand of wonderful scenery materials – such as the late summer crop rows that I’ve planted in one of the fields at St. Williams:
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Here’s a close-up of the field (so fresh that the glue is still drying):
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For this field, I used three packages of Late Summer Soy Beans & Potato Rows, which I purchased at a local hobby shop. (Scenic Express sells them online, here.) I did my best to line up them in neat rows across uneven ground – and this is a case where the photographs do not do the product justice. The field looks even better in person. I’ll be buying more.

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:
Ground cover around the trestle photo Trestle-GroundCover.jpg

Some S scale 2″x12″ boards and some 3/16″ dia. dowel did the job in no time at all:
Abutment closeup photo Abutments-CloseUp.jpg

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.
Overview of trestle area photo Trestle-Overview-Trees.jpg

A grassy hill

The area around Port Rowan is pretty flat but after talking with Chris Abbott during a recent work session, we decided a low rise would look nice at the entrance to Port Rowan. It would help justify the sharp curve out of the Lynn Valley before hitting the straightaway between the orchards. And the rise would help hide the Stone Church Road scene across the aisle when visitors are looking north out of Port Rowan.

Having glued together stacks of foam board in this area to give me the basic shape, today I tackled it with carving tools. When I was happy with the rough shape, I spread a layer of Sculptamold over the area and topped it with paint and various ground covers. Later, I flooded the area with dilute Weld Bond glue and added static grass and some meadow flowers.

Here’s a photo looking north towards the Lynn Valley… and another looking down the rise into Port Rowan:
Grassy Hill photo PortRowan-Hillside-02.jpg

Looking down to the Port photo PortRowan-Hillside-01.jpg

There’s still more to do, including the addition of bushes and trees. But the scene is coming together nicely.