In the weeds, Proto:48 style

My friend Mike Cougill models in Proto:48 and does wonderful work. I’m always inspired when I look at his modelling.

He’s just posted an entry on the OST Publications web site* about adding weeds and grass to track. This track – with even more grass between the ties – is what I hope to achieve on my S scale Port Rowan branch. Scroll through his blog to find lots of inspiration.

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

Spikes: Thanks Andy!

Yesterday’s mail – the first since the Christmas break – included my order of 10,000 more spikes from Proto 87 Stores*. I’m really impressed by the excellent products and quick service provided by the company’s brass hat, Andy Reichert.

Thanks, Andy! An impressive turn-around, especially during the holidays!

I wrote about these spikes in more detail in an earlier post.

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

Here, Buttercup!

Yes, I’m looking for cows. Specifically, 1:64 cows.

When I visited the Lynn Valley Rail Trail, I took this photo from the Pennington Bridge:

Bathing beauties.

The black and white things in the river are – yes – wading, bathing cows. I’ll have to replicate this scene on my layout.

I’m therefore looking for S scale cows – 5 or 7 of them, in standing poses, well-sculpted – to include in the scene I’m modelling on my layout:

Lynn Valley steel bridge - terrain overview.

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)

A most enjoyable day…

I spent a most enjoyable day at my friend’s place, laying track in Delhi, Ontario.

Pierre Oliver is the artist in residence at Elgin Car Shops* and the brass hat of the HO scale Wabash Buffalo Division. A few of us make the trip to his basement on a semi-regular basis to work on the layout.

Rich Chrysler – mentioned previously on this blog – was on hand. Like me, he’s on track duty, and was busy hammering in spikes in Tillsonburg. Brian Dickey was slinging scenic goop in Aylmer: I hope he cleaned up well before getting back into the shuttlecraft to fly everyone home. And John Mellow was delighted to discover that no glue is required for peel’n’stick windows as he worked on a feed mill.

We were joined for part of the day by two guests – Don Janes and George Dutka. Both are excellent modellers and regular contributors to the hobby press, and I’ve exchanged many emails with them over the years. It was a real treat to put faces and voices to the names. I hope to see them again soon.

I love days like this. I always come back from these sessions inspired to work on my own layout, which is why I made some time this morning to share photos of my progress on bridges for the Port Rowan branch.

Pierre has been building a couple more CNR cabooses for me, from the excellent S scale kit from Ridgehill Scale Models*. They are almost finished and were on display in his shop. It will come as no surprise to anybody who has seen these, but they received rave reviews.

For my part, I brought along CNR 1532 so everyone could have a look. People used to The Most Popular Scale are always quite impressed by the presence of S, enjoying its heft advantages over HO while noting that it’s not as overpowering as O:

Portrait - CNR 1532 in 1:64.

And yes, one of the attendees at our work session uttered those magic words, “If I didn’t already have all this HO…”

Thanks for a most enjoyable day, guys!

(*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.