“We might have to jack hammer…”

Today, I came really close to throwing in the towel on this hobby.

Really, really close.

Our house, circa 1885, has been suffering from a slow drain. Last week, I reported that the plumber had successfully passed a snake through the sewer pipe running under the house. The problem, it seemed, was outside – under the front yard. It was probably a tree issue.

Digging commenced Friday and tree roots were indeed discovered. The original, 1885 drain was removed and new pipe was laid as far as the city service – although the city will have to come to clear their part of the system, as it has also been compromised by tree roots.

That said, all was looking good until one last inspection of the system. The inspection camera was shoved into the floor drain at the end of the Port Rowan peninsula. It got about 20.5 feet, then disappeared into water – about 18 inches ahead of the camera that took this image:
 photo SewerCam_zps0efbaa57.jpg

20.5 feet – minus a few feet for going down the floor drain pipe – turned out to be right under the apple orchard in Port Rowan:
 photo Sewer-Orchard-01_zpsd6962a6e.jpg

The measurement was confirmed with a locator and for a while – for far too long, in fact – it seemed that the only solution would be to break into the concrete basement floor to have a closer look and replace the offending section of pipe. And since jack-hammering can’t be done sitting down, breaking into the floor would’ve required chopping apart the layout along the lines in this image:
 photo Sewer-Orchard-02_zpsffacc842.jpg

Note that the space between the lines includes four turnouts, plus the derail, plus the built-in-one-piece-for-smooth-transitions incline for the coal track.

“Cool train set, by the way,” says the plumber. “Can I see it run?”

“You can if you can fix the drain without digging up the floor.”

Fortunately – after much prodding and probing – the crew determined that the drain was in fact operating as it should. Water flowed well. A snake declared the drain clear, and several flushes and utility sinks full of water confirmed it. The camera was merely getting caught on some sediment at a bend in the pipe, which the flushing helped clear.

Crisis averted.

I do not have to take up découpage.

I remain a model railway enthusiast.

I’m off to pour a single malt, to raise a toast to my plumbers.

Port Rowan orchards planted

Entering Port Rowan photo Orchard-Planted-Detail-02.jpg

I’ve now finished planting all the apple trees in the two orchards that frame the entrance to Port Rowan.

Faster than you could say Ickity Ackity Oop I planted the final two dozen trees in the front orchard – seen below:

Looking towards the Port Rowan station
Orchard - planted (north) photo Orchard-Planted-Overview-01.jpg

Looking up the line towards the Lynn Valley
Orchard - planted (south) photo Orchard-Planted-Overview-02.jpg

As mentioned previously, I decided to use half as many trees as originally planned. I left every second row free of trees, adding brighter green ground foam in these rows to suggest grass and help disguise the stumps (which I simply left in place):
Down the rows photo Orchard-Planted-Detail-01.jpg

I think it looks fine – but especially so at eye level, whether looking at it from the meadow…
Panorama photo Orchard-Planted-Overview-03.jpg

… along the farm track to the rail crossing…
Orchard crossing photo OrchardCrossing.jpg

… or simply under the trees:
Under the apple trees photo Orchard-Planted-Detail-03.jpg

It’s not yet harvest season – although it’s close – so I won’t have ladders and workers everywhere. But adding a farmer checking on the progress of this year’s crop wouldn’t be out of place.

Pruning the orchards

Harvest Time photo Orchard-WA.jpg

I know, I know: I don’t even have all the trees planted yet, so what’s with pruning?

Well, today I was reading a on George Dutka‘s blog about his HO scale apple orchard, and it prompted me to do a bit more research into the commercial growing of apples. And while many photos showed trees growing quite tightly together in their rows, I realized that I had not spaced my rows of trees to allow the farmer to position wagons, ladders and other equipment necessary at harvest time. (It’s this kind of oversight of the obvious that makes me feel like a bit of a Gumby, sometimes…)
My Brain Hurts photo Gumby.jpg

I called my friend Pierre Oliver and while looking at photos of my first attempt at the orchard, he concurred that something was amiss.

I decided a good first step would be to remove every second row of trees from the back orchard:
Pruned back orchard photo BackOrchard-Pruned.jpg

I simply planted the removed trees in the front orchard – again, every second row:
Front orchard started photo FrontOrchard.jpg

(As the overview photos show, I still have some tree-building to do – but not nearly as much as I did before!)

If I don’t like the new look, I can build new trees and fill in the rows. But so far, I’m pleased.

This view of the front orchard clearly shows two rows of apple trees with space between them for wagons and ladders. It’ll be a more interesting scene than before:
Looking through the orchards photo OrchardsFromHillside.jpg

(Lesson learned: Always build things, but don’t be afraid to rebuild if they aren’t perfect!)

I do have one new issue to address – namely, the gap between the back orchard and the backdrop. With the row of trees closest to the backdrop removed, it’s easy to see the gap between layout and curtain – as shown at left in this photo:
Backdrop problem at orchard photo BackdropProblem.jpg

However, I expect that adding some strategically-placed tall trees on the hillside in the foreground will solve the problem. In fact, I photoshopped some extra trees into the scene and it’ll work just fine:
Possible solution to backdrop problem photo BackdropProblemWithTrees.jpg

The thinned orchards still do a great job of framing the entrance to Port Rowan – regardless of whether one is looking towards the yard, up the line, or from the front edge of the layout:
Freight extra at Port Rowan photo OrchardsFromHillside-Train.jpg

Looking up line between apples photo ArrivalBetweenOrchards.jpg

Freight extra at Port Rowan photo ArrivalFromTTLead.jpg

Pierre offered some good ideas which I will try out if my re-spaced trees don’t satisfy me. (Thanks for the help with this, Pierre!)

Back orchard planted

Back orchard planted photo BackOrchard-Overview.jpg

I built apple trees yesterday afternoon – many, many apple trees – and by dinner time I had planted the back orchard at Port Rowan.

As I’ve described elsewhere, the trees are Woodland Scenics armatures over which I’ve added fine leaf foliage using the company’s Hob-E-Tac adhesive. (This stuff looks and smells like Weldbond, but I tried brushing some Weldbond on an armature and it doesn’t seem to set up as tacky – so I’ll keep using the Hob-E-Tac.)

Once planted, I squirted the orchard with hair spray, sprinkled the Woodland Scenics fine leaf foliage with a bit of Selkirk Scenery leaf material to add variation and colour, then scattered Woodland Scenics apples. The effect is quite good – and we know they’re apple trees because, well, they have apples in them!
Detail of the back orchard photo BackOrchard-Detail.jpg

I really like the view from eye-level as a train enters the Port Rowan yard between the orchards:
Between the orchards photo 1560-OrchardArrival.jpg

(Note that the trees in the front orchard have not yet had their Selkirk leaves or apples applied.)

Now, onto the front orchard. I’m less than half-way done with building apple trees, but the process is going quickly so far and as I anticipated, it’s worth the effort!

Don’t let those apple trees wander onto the tracks

Keep those trees from wandering photo PtR-OrchardFence-02.jpg

Crossing protection photo PtR-OrchardFence-03.jpg

It was a holiday weekend where I live, so I took advantage of the extra day off yesterday to build the wooden fences around the two orchards at the entrance to Port Rowan.

This involved a fair bit of measuring, cutting and gluing. I modelled my fences on those I see every week when I take my border collie Mocean to the country, where we’re learning to herd sheep:
Everybody's settled photo 25acbb85.jpg

Posts are spaced roughly eight feet apart and stand five feet high, supporting four rows of 1″x6″ boards. I had 95 panels to build, and by the time I added in diagonal braces plus a two pair of gates at the farm crossing, I had cut and glued well over 400 pieces of strip wood. A good day’s work!

I like how the two orchards frame the railroad’s entrance to Port Rowan – with the fences in place, the effect is even better:
Between the orchards photo PtR-OrchardFence-01.jpg

With the fences built, I can now return to creating and planting apple trees, confident that they won’t wander onto the track. 😉


That’s how many trees I have to build for the apple orchards at Port Rowan.

But first, the ground under the trees needed attention, so I’ve attended to it.

I started by gluing down the Woodland Scenics tree bases in a regular pattern. I then covered the orchard area with a darker brown paint than what I’m using under uncultivated fields. While the paint was still wet, I added ground tea leaves and dilute Weldbond. When dry, I went back and added lines of Weldbond along the three bases and topped these with some scatter material and static grass. This defines the rows of trees.
Under the apple trees photo PtR-Orchard-04.jpg

Orchard ground cover photo PtR-Orchard-05.jpg

I’ve actually started the trees as well – adding Woodland Scenics Fine Leaf Foliage to the company’s bendable armatures. I’ll add Woodland Scenics apples when I get the orchard fully planted, but the first five trees are done:
Five down - 200 to go. photo PtR-Orchard-06.jpg

200 to go.

I will have to add fences around the orchards before I plant the trees at the front of the layout. It’s on the to-do list.

The apple orchards at Port Rowan

Apples must’ve been big business in Port Rowan at one time, and they’ll figure prominently on my layout, too.

Down By The Bay, a history of Port Rowan that I’ve mentioned before on this blog, notes that during the First World War, an apple dehydrating plant was located across from the station. (As its name suggests, this plant created dried fruit. It was shipped out via rail, eventually to Allied soldiers fighting in Europe.)

The plant disappeared before the era I’m modelling, so I won’t have trainloads of apples heading out of Port Rowan – although when Andy Malette at MLW Services releases his highly-anticipated CNR eight-hatch refrigerator car in S scale, I will have to ship the occasional carload of apples off the team track.

Regardless, as the righthand side of my CNR track map shows, the railway entered the Port Rowan yard by passing between farm fields…
 photo PortRowan-Plot-Web_zpsli8hidhh.jpg

…and I know from speaking with people like my friend Rich Chrysler that these were apple orchards. (Indeed, one can still find Port Rowan-area orchards today.)

So, I will have to model the orchards.

While visiting a local hobby shop this week, I found a package of tree armatures (Woodland Scenics TR1121) that will make a good starting point for my trees. A three-inch model tree represents a 16-foot tree in S and one wouldn’t want apple trees much taller than that: They’d be too hard to pick. So this package of 57 armatures seemed like a good starting point.

The armatures come flat – the modeller bends them into “tree shapes”. I did this during a free moment yesterday and set them on the layout to see if I liked the effect:
Port Rowan Orchards - a beginning photo PtR-Orchard-03.jpg

I do – but I will also need two or three more bags of armatures to fill the space!

As can be seen in this photo, it will take a fair bit of work to transform them into realistic looking apple trees…
Switch stand and orchard photo PtR-Orchard-01.jpg

…but I think these plastic armatures will better capture the cultivated look of apple trees than (ironically) more natural materials such as Super Sage Trees. (I’ll have plenty of places to use Super Sage elsewhere on the layout, too.)

Have another look at the orchards on the CNR track map. Note that there’s a private crossing to allow the farmer to tend orchards on both sides of the tracks. While doing orchard-y things yesterday, I also distressed and stained some strip wood and added the farm crossing:
Farm crossing photo PtR-Orchard-02.jpg

I also added ballast between the two wooden crossings. I’ll finish this crossing when I do the ground cover in the orchard, with a lane for an old farm truck or tractor+wagon.

I’m looking forward to this project – but ask me again after I’ve done 150-200 apple trees!