“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…

Road Work

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My copy of Volume 3 of the scenery series by Gordon Gravett arrived this week, and it includes a section on modelling roads. As it happens, I had a couple of roads that needed painting, so I read through Gordon’s approach and it inspired me to tackle my own.

I brushed the roads with a medium-dark grey I found at the local art supply store and left it to dry. Today, while heading to the farm where I work my border collie on sheep, I paid close attention to the colour of the roads and took a few reference photos. When I got back from our lesson, I grabbed a brush and my set of weathering powders and went to work.

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The roads I saw today were in various states of repair, but unless they were new they were a faded black – lighter than the paint I’d used. Lanes were darker – the result, I’m guessing – of tires shedding a little bit of rubber which then gets ground into the road surface. The centre of the road was paler, and the edges had some brown in them. So that’s how I weathered my roads.

In addition, I added patches of brown where cinder drives and dirt roads meet the main road, to show that some of the dirt has been tracked onto the road by vehicles pulling out.

Also, I laid down a narrow line of dark rust on either side of each rail in my crossing, and then blended that into the roadway. I think this picks up the colours of the roadbed quite effectively and shows where the trains have spread dirt, rust, etc., onto the road surface.

I like the effect I’ve achieved, which is the most important thing…

St Williams weekend progress

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I made significant progress in St. Williams over the weekend. In addition to building a baggage wagon for the station, I also paved the road and crossing, built and installed crossbucks, and added fence posts to define the railway’s right of way.

I used spackle to make the road. I gave it a thick coat, sanded when dry, then added a thin top coat. When it’s cured, I’ll paint and weather it. I plan to wait until my copy of the latest book from Gordon Gravett arrives before I finish the road – I’m guessing it has some interesting techniques that I can put to good use here.

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To pave the crossing, I first cleaned the paint off the inside of the Code 70 running rails with a wire wheel in a Dremel Tool. I then cut two lengths of Code 55 Rail. I tinned the top of the railhead on these two pieces. I then added flux to the inside web of each running rail, and soldered the head of the Code 55 Rail to the web of the running rail. (This is an old trick used by trolley enthusiasts to simulate streetcar trackage.)

Soldering holds the Code 55 securely, and also connects it electrically to the running rails so if a deep-flanged piece of equipment passes over the crossing, it should still receive power. (That said, I checked the crossing after soldering the rails in place, and my locomotives and rolling stock navigate it without riding up.)

I then carefully applied spackle in this area, smoothing it level with the tops of the rails. I made sure any spackle that got into the channels I’d created with the Code 55 was cleaned out. When the spackle dried, I went over the tops of the rails, lightly, with a sanding block to make sure the road surface does not rise above the railhead, and to clean any spackle off the railheads themselves.

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I picked up the crossbucks from David Clubine at Ridgehill Scale Models. (Thanks, David!) These laser-cut kits are Canadian-specific – note the use of the word “RailWAY” – and are part of the Grand River Models range of S scale detail parts. (Barry Silverthorn at Grand River Models notes on his website that he also offers US-style “RailROAD” crossbucks.)

While working in this area, I also added posts to represent the railway’s right of way fencing. I will admit right up front that the fence line is much closer to the tracks than it would be in real life. But putting the posts in their proper spot would have pushed the right of way to the edges of the benchwork – which would in turn deny me the opportunity to model farms, tobacco kilns, and other neat things that help convey context on my layout. So it’s a compromise I’m willing to live with.

I started by sawing six 1/8″ diameter dowels into dozens of little pieces, using a miter box to add a 30-degree angle to the ends of each piece and a stop to make them all the same length. I then marked a “ground” level on each, so they would all be the same height when planted.

To add them to the layout, I grabbed a scrap of wood and marked it for distance from the railhead and distance between posts. I then used this to locate each post. Planting went relatively quickly: I poked a hole in the foam board terrain and stuck a post in. After all were in place, I went back and stained the posts in-situ with more Hunterline Medium Brown:

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I have not yet decided whether I’m going to add fence wire between the posts, using E-Z Line. It would better convey “fence” to viewers, but I worry about it picking up dust or catching uncoupling picks. I may try a small section and see if I like it. Meantime, I’m very pleased with how the St. Williams scene is coming together. There’s much more to do – and I’m almost ready to take the next step in building the trees – but even these few details added over the weekend have made a big difference.

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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Lighten up

I was talking to my friend Pierre Oliver yesterday and we agreed that the cinder driveway in Port Rowan was too dark.

After spraying the last of the unpainted rails today in Port Rowan, I loaded the airbrush with some diluted BAR Gray (it was handy) and gave the cinders a weathering job. The effect is much better, I think. But judge for yourself. Here’s a photo of the new, lighter driveway… and a picture showing how it looked before adding the grey.
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Port Rowan station parking area photo PtR-Driveway-01.jpg

More meadow madness

Work continues on the basic scenery in Port Rowan.

I’ve now added basic ground cover to most of the space between the yard and the backdrop. This includes a most of the driveway that runs behind the station to the team track and coal dealer:
Port Rowan station parking area photo PtR-Driveway-01.jpg

Port Rowan team track ground cover photo PtR-TeamTrack-01.jpg

I’ve also added basic ground cover around the main track where it passes between the orchards to enter Port Rowan. This section of track is now ballasted as well:
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Finally, I’ve started to add some colour to the scene, with flowers from Woodland Scenics and Scenic Express. Here, Woodland Scenics flowers grow in a mass planting in yellow and lavender:
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Purple meadow flowers photo PtR-MeadowFlowers-02.jpg

Meantime, Scenic Express “babys breathe” (sic) adds height and white:
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The overall effect creates a subtle yet welcome addition of colour, I think. There’s still much to do, but every little bit helps and I think I’m headed in the right direction.
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