I’m in love with my car …

“…Got a feel for my automobile …”

S scale has its challenges compared to other scales, but one of those is definitely not a supply of good vehicles.

Case in point, today’s mail brought a bucket o’ M2 Auto-Thentics, delightful die cast that’s perfect for a 1950s layout.

I’m fortunate in that Port Rowan was a summer vacation destination for wealthy Americans (and Canadians), so even models in vibrant paint schemes with top-trim features look at home on the roads.

As for my layout, I’ve added the following:

– A 1954 Dodge Coronet (seen here at the Port Rowan station, next to a Kyosho models Austin Healey):
1:64 Vehicles photo Vehicles-01.jpg

– A 1956 Ford F-100 with tow truck/plow attachments (at the garage in Port Rowan, with another Healey inside):
1:64 Vehicles photo Vehicles-02.jpg

– A 1953 Ford Crestline Victoria (parked at the house on Chestnut street in Port Rowan):
1:64 Vehicles photo Vehicles-03.jpg

– Four models – including a 1954 Chevy Bel Air, 1954 Dodge Coronet, 1951 Ford Crestliner, and a 1950 Oldsmobile (on Bay Street in Port Rowan):
1:64 Vehicles photo Vehicles-04.jpg

– A 1954 Sudebaker 3R (next to the barn at the team track in Port Rowan):
1:64 Vehicles photo Vehicles-08.jpg

– Two models – a 1954 Mercury Sun Valley and 1953 Oldsmobile 98 (on Stone Church Road):
1:64 Vehicles photo Vehicles-05.jpg

– Four models – a 1949 Mercury, 1953 Oldmobile 98, 1951 Ford Crestliner and a 1950 Oldsmobile (at St. Williams):
1:64 Vehicles photo Vehicles-07.jpg

Most of these came via Amazon, in sets. But if you’re looking for some, Hoquat Hobbies in New Jersey has an extensive listing, with pictures, on this web page.

I also have a 1948 Ford F-1 pick-up (at the grain bin in St. Williams). I can’t remember who made this model, unfortunately:
1:64 Vehicles photo Vehicles-06.jpg

That about does me for cars, I think – but I will need to find some more trucks, including commercial vehicles, to park at team tracks.

Five more tree armatures

Tree progress continues. Yesterday I twisted up five more armatures for the forest in the Lynn Valley following directions in the tree books by Gordon Gravett.

Here, the armatures are drying after their first coat of bark mixture. The twisted wire is apparent, but that will disappear under a couple more coats of goop.
Five more trees photo TreeArmatures-120909.jpg

Looking sharp!

When looking for ways to improve how we engage in the hobby, it’s often worthwhile to look beyond model railroading to what enthusiasts in other hobbies are doing.

Therefore, last night I took part in a seminar on sharpening chisel and plane blades, offered by Robert Haig at my local Lee Valley Tools store.

This 2.5 hour class was split between theory and hands on work, and was well worth the fee (which is donated to a local charity). In addition to honing my skills on a chisel, I learned a number of techniques that I can apply to the many smaller sharp things we use in the hobby.

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.

AAR Railway Accounting Rules

AAR Accounting Rules photo AAR-Accounting.jpg

Today’s mail included an October 1951 edition of Railway Accounting Rules, published by the Association of American Railroads. I picked this up via ABE Books, after learning about it on Tony Thompson‘s excellent blog, Modeling the SP.

As the title suggests, this book describes how railroads track and pay for moving frreight and passengers over the North American rail network. It includes examples of the many forms – including several types of waybills and swtiching orders – that are used to ensure freight cars reach their destination.

This is a good companion to my recently-acquired copy of a book that describes freight car handling rules, also from the AAR.

Like the freight car rules, the accounting book is overkill for a simple layout such as mine. But these two books will help me to generate authentic-looking waybills and other paperwork to make my operating sessions as realistic as possible.

Once again, I must thank Tony for researching this important part of railroading – and blogging about it!

Redwing Blackbirds

Redwing Blackbird photo RWBbird-02.jpg

Manfred Lesser at ML Designs offers some nice pre-painted bird castings. He notes on his page that although his Little Critters are done for HO, “they work just as well in S scale”.

I couldn’t agree more.

I recently picked up a package of Redwing Blackbirds and have put them in the meadow at Port Rowan. Here’s one near the turntable approach:
Redwing Blackbird photo RWBbird-01.jpg

I will need to buy more of these for the meadow. Meantime, I also have some of Manfred’s Cardinals and Blue Jays, which will go in the Lynn Valley.

I am tempted to capture the Redwing Blackbird’s distinctive song and play it – at very low volume – through speakers hidden near the meadow. Add in the drone of bees and the buzzing of cicadas – again, at very low volume – and that’ll go a long way towards establishing that it’s summer in southern Ontario.

(Manfred – if you read this, please do not create insect figures!) 🙁

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!