St Williams house :: Details

St. Williams photo StW-House-11_zpsde78d0ff.jpg

I closed the year 2013 on a quiet note, detailing the white house at St. Williams.

A confab on the porch photo StW-House-13_zpscde28e0a.jpg

The above view shows a number of modifications I’ve made to the stock Finley House – an S scale kit from Branchline Trains. From the top down, these include:

* Sills added to window frames (strip wood) – all windows upgraded;

* Eavestroughs (built up from styrene angle) and downspouts (bent from styrene rod) – one across the front of the porch roof, plus one on either side of the main roof;

* A door knob and striker plate (fabricated from wire and styrene strip) – also added to the back door; and

* A more substantial porch, with framing below the deck and thicker legs (strip wood)

There’s a confab happening on the porch, involving four figures from Arttista. I used catalogue numbers 725, 743, 791 and 792 for this. They must be in deep discussion as they’re ignoring the traffic going by…
St Williams street scene photo StW-House-14_zpsea4c863e.jpg

Here are several additional details which can be seen in these four photos:
St Williams House - east photo StW-House-16_zpse12e5261.jpg

St Williams House - north photo StW-House-17_zps3b6cfe2b.jpg

St Williams House - west photo StW-House-18_zps61fecf00.jpg

St. Williams House - south photo StW-House-15_zps0395ad24.jpg

The main roof has the kit chimney, plus two vents for the plumbing stacks for the kitchen and bathroom. These were bent from brass wire and glued into holes drilled in the roof, then painted. Some weathering powders on the roof add a touch of rust below each pipe, and a touch of moss on the side sheltered by the tree.

The oil tank is kit 2104 from TractorFab. It’s a very nice laser cut kit that took about a half-hour to build. I’m not actually sure what it’s doing on this house – it wouldn’t be furnace oil because that would never flow in the winter from an outdoor, uninsulated tank like this. (Maybe that’s what the confab on the porch is about?) But it looks good, so there it is.

The electric meter is detail part S5024 from Wiseman Model Services. I added a taller stack made from wire. When I plant this house permanently, I’ll run the power line from this stack to the utility pole across the road.

St Williams photo StW-House-12_zps57c5629e.jpg

Planting the house on the layout will require building up the ground underneath it, adding a sidewalk to the roadway, adding a driveway next to the house on the side with the oil tank, and some landscaping to blend the house into its environment.

Finally, I I want to build a garage to complete this scene. Branchline has some lovely examples in HO. Unfortunately, they’re not offered in S. I might have to buy an HO version and use it as a study model to scratch-build my own…

St Williams House :: Test Fit

It fits.
St. Williams House - Scene photo StW-House-08_zps9bf798c9.jpg

Last night I shingled the roof on the house for St. Williams. The kit included laser cut paper shingles in pale grey. I decided to use these, but will paint them black.

These shingles do not have a peel and stick backing – and that’s fine because I find such backings are great for positioning rows but lousy at keeping the shingles in place over time, so I always take measures to lock everything in place:

First, as I lay each row I run a bead of CA along the top edge of the strip.

Then, when I have finished the roof, I carefully brush a coating of dilute Weld-Bond (2:1 adhesive to water) over the shingles. When this dries – usually overnight – the roof is nice and solid.

Afterward shingling the roof, I set the house in place on the layout and thought I’d take a couple of photos to explore the possibilities of this scene. I’m pleased with how it’s coming together. The house fits, both physically (I knew it would, since I built a mock-up) and aesthetically:
St. Williams - House and Depot photo StW-House-10_zpsca294a07.jpg

St. Williams House - Porch photo StW-House-09_zps60809e6c.jpg

Next up – painting the roof, adding the stairs, and detailing.

St Williams House :: Rooms and Windows

St Williams - House Front photo StW-House-04_zps5712a7fd.jpg

I’ve made considerable progress on the house for St. Williams. As the lead photo shows, I’ve built and installed the windows and doors, including curtains and glazing with real glass.

I started by adding room dividers, so that if someone looks into a window they can’t see the light coming through windows on other walls – a dead giveaway that a model is nothing more than an empty shell. Normally, I would simply install some baffles made of thin sheets of styrene – preferably the black stuff. But the instructions for this kit include a drawing of the floor plan of the prototype for this house, and I thought it would be fun to divide the interior into rooms:
St Williams - House Rooms photo StW-House-05_zpsd55d2c8b.jpg

I made no attempt to model a full, detailed interior: The goal was to allow the curious to see light through appropriate windows – for example, if one looks across the front bedroom one can see light from the window on the far side.

I started by cutting two floors from styrene, notched to fit around the interior wall braces. I glued the ground floor in place, then added interior walls following the diagram in the kit instructions. The ground floor includes an L-shaped living/dining room, a kitchen, and an L-shaped staircase. I cut two wall sections from styrene to form the interior walls for the kitchen and glued them in place.

Before continuing to the bedroom level, I realized I had to add curtains to the windows in the ground floor, so I did that. (More on the curtains in a moment.)

Next, I glued the upstairs floor in place on top of the kitchen walls. Then I divided the upstairs with more styrene walls, as shown in the above photo. I didn’t worry about making these walls exactly match the pitch of the end walls – in fact, they don’t even rise to the peak of the roof. This won’t be seen when the roof is in place. Instead, I cut them so they would not interfere with the roof and glued them in place.

The master bedroom runs across the front of the house. Behind that is a an L-shaped space representing the stairwell and hallway. A single bathroom is to the right, behind the master bedroom, while two smaller bedrooms share the back of the house.

With the walls in place upstairs, I added curtains to the bedroom windows.

For curtains, I went online and found some 1950s curtain patterns. I saved the images, imported them into a Microsoft Word document, and resized them so they were 1.25 inches tall – big enough to cover the windows. I duplicated the images so I’d have enough of each type of curtain to do each room, then printed out a sheet of curtains on a colour printer. Easy-peasy.

I cut out each curtain, then folded it accordion-style, in very tight folds. I then smoothed out the top of each curtain, added a bit of CA, and glued the paper curtain in place behind the appropriate window opening. For some rooms, I used the printed material flat, to represent a roller blind.

This image shows the interior of the rear bedrooms. At left, a pair of curtains. At right, a roller blind:
St Williams - House Curtains inside photo StW-House-06_zps585279be.jpg

And here’s what these rooms look like from the outside, before adding the windows:
St Williams - House Curtains outside photo StW-House-07_zps57b896c1.jpg
(I really like the steam tractor roller blind for a kid’s room.)

While curtains and blinds might not be printed on the back side – the side facing the outside world – I think doing this on the model adds some nice colour and looks better than plain white paper. Others may prefer to simply cut material from printer paper and not bother with printing out appropriately scaled patterns.

With floors, interior walls, and curtains in place, I then turned my attention to the windows. The kit windows are built up from three layers of laser cut wood, complete with peel’n’stick backings. These are, the outside frame, a two-light interior frame that represents the upper (fixed) sash, and a single-light interior frame that represents the lower (movable) sash.

The instructions do not mention that the outer frames and two-light interior frames have a top and bottom – so I’ll mention it here. I goofed on a couple of windows before I realized this and hand to peel them apart to rebuild them. The outer frame should be positioned so that the wider piece is at the bottom. The two-light interior frame has one opening that’s larger than the other – this is the lower of the two lights.

The instructions would also have one start on the innermost frame and work one’s way out. This is backwards: It’s a whole lot easier to start with the outer frame and work in, especially if one is using real glass as I did.

Work on one window at a time, installing it as it’s finished. Cut both pieces of glass before assembling the window. (Here’s how I cut glass.)

Peel the backing away from the outer frame, and lay the two-light interior frame in place. Peel the backing away and add glass to the upper window. Then add the single-light interior frame – either fully closed or positioned partially- or fully-open. (I left a number of windows open, since I’m modelling August.) Then peel the backing off the lower sash and add the glass. Finally, position and press the completed window into place.

To model open windows, the lower sash will not have enough contact with the adhesive on the two-light frame. Secure the lower sash in place by holding it in the desired position and using a toothpick to add a line of Microscale’s Kristal Klear to each side of the sash. Do not use CA, which will fog the glass. This high-tack adhesive will not do that, but will hold the sash in place.

One last item – not done on the windows in the photos – is to add a piece of wood to the outer frame, below the lower light. (Here’s an example on a Tichy O scale window.) This trim detail is not included in the kit but I can whip up some out of strip wood and glue it in place with Kristal Klear. (I won’t use CA here, as it’s too close to the glass and could fog my glazing.)

As the photos show, I’ve also added the foundation and the porch – although I need to finish painting some edges. There’s more to do, including shingling the roof – but the house is very close to being finished. It’s going to look really nice across from the station in St. Williams!

Using real glass for windows

I had a reader ask about my technique for using real glass for windows – noting that it’s very easy to break the microscope slide covers when cutting them to size.

I wrote about using real glass in the January, 2009 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman magazine – still available from the publisher. But here are some ideas to guide others who are breaking a lot of glass.

First, here are the tools I use for glass:
Glazing-Tools photo Glazing-01_zps814dfe74.jpg

I have a small cutting mat that I use only for cutting glass. I keep it in a drawer when I’m not using it so it stays clean and dust-free. Under the mat, I have a second, larger mat – which I use for all sorts of modelling projects. Between the two, I put a piece of waxed paper, so I can clear glass shards off the small mat onto the paper, then when I’m done working on glass I can fold the paper so that I keep any shards contained before disposal.

The mat is important because it supports the glass with just the right amount of give so that one can score the slide covers without breaking them.

The black “pen” is actually a diamond-tipped scriber. I bought this at a jewelry supply company, and it set me back about $20. I use it only for glass and it does a terrific job – scoring the glass with very little pressure. The steel rule is used for measuring the sizes I need to cut, and for guiding the scriber.

The rubber gloves are essential to cutting glass. In fact, I use them when airbrushing as well, so I buy a box of them from my local Lee Valley Tools. The gloves do more than keep finger prints off the glass: They allow you to handle the glass with confidence – and this means you don’t end up breaking it because you’re worried about putting prints on it, instead of worrying about how much pressure you’re using to hold things in place.

The last essential is a good source of directional light. I use a small gooseneck lamp, aimed so that it washes over the glass I’m working on – like this:
Glazing-Light photo Glazing-02_zps44019caf.jpg

I can’t do decent glass work unless I can clearly see the glass. And this stuff can disappear on a surface without a strong, directional light.

To cut the glass, I measure the size piece I need and use my scriber to add marks to each end of the cut. Here’s the same piece of glass, with two marks on it showing the end points of my cut:
Glazing-Marking photo Glazing-03_zps0a4376bf.jpg

(This is actually the same photograph as the above one, but taken with with a faster shutter speed so that the glare from the glass doesn’t wash out the marks. When actually working on glass, my eyes adjust so I can see the marks just fine.)

With the glass marked, I can then line up the ruler with the two marks – holding the ruler down with fingers placed to either side of the glass itself – and then I lightly draw a line with the scriber. I let the diamond do the work: That’s what I paid the $20 for. It took a bit of practice to get a feel for just how much – or rather, how little – pressure I needed to use.

The scriber may break the glass along the line when I scribe it, or it may not. I can repeat scribing the line until it does break – or I can slide the glass to the edge of the cutting mat and press down on the scrap piece to snap the glass along the scribed line. Regardless, I tip and tap my glass cutting mat onto the waxed paper to collect the scrap and then move onto the next cut.

Photos of Forestville depot?

I’ve been contacted by a woman named Penny Plunkett who is working on a history of Forestville – one of the intermediate stops on the Port Rowan branch.

Penny is looking for information – in particular, photographs – of the Forestville depot. If you have any – or know of any sources for these – can you let me know via the comments to this post? I can then pass along the information.

(I don’t normally do this, because it could become a full-time occupation. But if others are looking for specific information about the railway – only between Simcoe and Port Rowan, please! – let me know and maybe some of my readers will have an answer.)

Thanks in advance!

“Any progress on LCL?”

M233 at St Williams photo StW-Crossing-Trees-04_zps73bc3d71.jpg
(M233 stops at St. Williams to transfer passengers, mail, express and LCL)

I was afraid someone would ask… although I’m also glad that Ralph Heiss did. Ralph runs the LCL Ops Modeling Yahoo Group, which has a lot of great info about less than carload operations and how to model them, so he’s keenly interested in the issue.

I found the group after publishing a blog post about representing LCL on the layout – or, at least, my first steps towards doing so. As the post notes, I’ve created freight receipts to represent Express and LCL.

Ralph, to answer your question: I’ve been testing various ways to use this information on the layout but so far I have not settled on a system I like.

The primary way in which LCL will affect operations is the time required to load and unload it at stations.

On my layout, this isn’t really an issue at Port Rowan, providing the train is spotted at the station while carload switching is performed. Even the time it takes for the crew to run their locomotive from the station to the turntable and back should be sufficient in most cases to transfer LCL and express, since the platform at Port Rowan is long enough to accommodate the whole train.

It’s a different matter at St. Williams, where the platform is long enough for a single passenger car and there’s a road crossing that the rulebook states cannot be blocked for more than five minutes:
St Williams House photo StW-House-01_zps3cc05621.jpg
(Click on the image to read about how to keep the crossing clear)

This means I need some way to translate the freight receipts into the amount of time the train must stop at St. Williams with the appropriate car (LCL boxcar or the baggage section of the combine) spotted at the platform. I have a fast clock system, which helps with this.

On the real railroad, the work would simply take place until it was done. Time isn’t an issue – it takes what it takes. But on a layout, we aren’t physically moving the freight so we need a way to represent the time it takes.

I’m testing two ways:

* The car must be spotted for a set amount of time for each package listed on the freight receipts.

* The car must be spotted for a set amount of time for each 10 pounds of freight listed on the receipts.

Either approach calls for the conductor to do some unprototypical time-keeping. To aid with this, I’ve included some notepaper in one of the pigeon holes on the slide-out work-desks at St. Williams and Port Rowan:
Work Desk w LCL Organizer photo LCL-Rack-01_zpsc8f050ea.jpg
(Click on the image to read more about the pigeon holes)

Using the fast clock, the conductor can note the time that the car is spotted at the station, then calculate how much time will be required to transfer Express and LCL on and off the train.

The short-comings of this system are two-fold:

* First, there’s the math. Nobody really likes doing math.

* Second, regardless of whether it’s calculated by weight or by number of items, the time can quickly add up to a lot of standing around for the operators – which, frankly, isn’t very fun.

Changing the amount of time per unit of measurement – for example, from 30 fast-seconds to 15 fast-seconds per 10 pounds – is one way to address the second problem. Breaking the work into unloading on M233’s trip west to Port Rowan, and loading on M238’s return trip east, also helps reduce the apparent wait time by splitting it. But neither solution does nothing about the first problem: The math.

One option I’m considering is adding a timer next to each fast clock on the work desk. If they’re mechanical timers, I can add some new faces – either marked in fast minutes or in number of packages. Some math would still be required to figure out how long each car must be spotted at the platform. But once that’s figured out, one could simply set the timer and do other things until it dings.

Nothing is decided yet and I’ll continue to work on this. Thanks again for asking the question, Ralph – stay tuned for more!

Brace yourselves

In my previous posting on the house I’m building for St. Williams, my friend David Woodhead noted that he could see some interior bracing in the second photo. (Not only a good ear, but a good eye, David!)

That bracing is important for a couple of reasons, so I thought I’d post about it here…
St Williams house - bracing photo StW-House-03_zpsff3e14b7.jpg

As the above photo shows, I’ve added bracing in the four corners as well as a couple of pieces along the two long sides. I cut pieces from strip wood – the size is not important except that it should be fairly large since it’s structural.

As I described in my previous post, I added 6″ x 6″ trim to the two end walls, as shown here:
St Williams House - Trim photo StW-House-02_zpsfc433b9d.jpg
(Click on the image to read more)

After adding the trim, but before gluing the four walls together to form the structure, I added the large strip wood braces to the inside of the two end walls. I lined this up on the joint between the laser cut wall and the 6″ x 6″ corner trim. Meantime, I measured and drew a vertical line on the inside of the two side walls to locate the mid-wall braces. Their exact location isn’t important but by making sure they will be directly across from each other, they can be used to support interior baffles that will prevent visitors from staring through the house and seeing that it’s an empty shell.

The interior bracing and corner trim also make it easy to glue the side walls into place against the end walls: I simply add glue to the brace and press the side wall against it, tight against the corner trim, with everything set on my glass surface.

Finally, note in the first photo in this post that it’s a good idea to number the adjacent corners of each wall before trimming away the interlocking tabs. Tabs tend to be keyed – they only fit the correct adjacent wall – but once they’re gone it can be easy to mix up the relationship. With numbers, one can match up the edges.

Dawson Station

Dawson Station photo Dawson-Station_zpsf053ffa7.jpg
(Click on the image to visit the Dawson Station blog)

The sneak peek for the January, 2014 Railroad Model Craftsman notes that the issue includes a feature on Dawson Station by Kenneth Olsen. As the photo above shows, this is a very nicely done layout that’s based on a prototype sawmill in the northwestern United States.

What’s not obvious from the above photo is it’s a micro-layout – just one foot by four feet in N scale. While there are many fine examples of micro layouts online, what I find really interesting about this blog in particular is how Kenneth has exhibited Dawson Station at a number of non-model railroading events in Oregon over the past year. Here are three reports he’s posted:

* the Portland Maker Faire in September

* the Eugene Maker Maker Faire in June, and

* the Eugene Maker’s Festival in March.

Maker Faires are getting a lot of attention in the mainstream press lately:

To cite one example, this Toronto Star article from September reports on a Mini Maker Faire in the city where I live. Note that the reporter seems quite taken by the typewriter that prints out Twitter messages.

To cite another, here’s a report about a Maker Faire that Kenneth attended with Dawson Station. Note the age of the attendees shown in the photos. (And here’s Kenneth’s write-up where I found the link to the Gazette-Times.)

The theme that runs through many of these articles is that these Maker Faires represent a return to doing things and learning craftsmanship skills such as soldering, metal working, wiring and so on. Of course, for model railway enthusiasts there’s no “return” involved, because for us such skills never went away. They’re part of what we do – mastering these skills and many others is essential to making the trains run. And for many – including myself – it’s an important reason why we do this hobby.

But when outsiders look at the model railroading hobby, they often see it differently. They see a bunch of people – mostly men, mostly caucasian, and increasingly old – playing with toys. And yet, there’s not much different between building a small layout and building a tweeting typewriter: both projects require learning a variety of skills and both are undertaken for fun.

That’s why I think what Kenneth is doing is so awesome:

* He’s started with the best aspects of the model railroading hobby – including prototype research and the many craftsman skills that we learn when we build a layout.

* Then he’s added a very modern dose of computing coolness, using Arduino open-source hardware and software to perform various tasks on the layout including occupancy detection, locomotive control, and switch control. Incorporating Arduino into the layout makes the model railroading hobby relevant to the bright young people who are using the system to build robots and other Maker Faire staples.

* And finally, Kenneth is taking his layout to the types of events that attract people who are interested in these types of skills. Those are people who could become life-long model railway enthusiasts – providing the hobby is shown to be relevant to them in some way.

Relevancy is important. I’m not sure exactly how to do that, but it could include the choice of theme. Modern railroading is an obvious choice since it’s likely the only kind of railroading with which non-hobbyists will be familiar. But it’s not the only possibility. I think there’s an opportunity to draw people into the hobby through fantasy themes such as Steam Punk. (There is an active community of Steam Punk model railway enthusiasts. Here’s an example. I particularly like The Tortoise…)

Another thought is to incorporate ways for spectators to interact with the layout through their own personal electronics and social media. This could be anything from harnessing Twitter to display messages on a billboard all the way up to using Wi-Fi and an app like WiThrottle to control the trains.

I’ve only just started to read Kenneth’s blog and have not yet seen the RMC article, so I don’t know if he set out to build a layout to which the Maker Movement could relate, or whether its role in promoting the hobby to the Makers has evolved. And while Kenneth’s layout is the first example I’ve seen of this, I’m sure others have taken their exhibition layouts or model railway projects to Maker Faires. (If you have, use the “comments” function on this post to let me know about the experience.)

Regardless, I think it’s a great idea. For such a small layout, Dawson Station certainly gives me some big ideas…

Well done, Kenneth!

A start on the St. Williams house

St Williams House photo StW-House-01_zps3cc05621.jpg

My snow plow project has been delayed until I get my mitts on some sanding sealer. In the meantime, I’ve had a couple of quiet days so I’ve been able to start working on something else: The house for the St. Williams scene.

For this, I’m using an S scale kit from Branchline Trains – the Finley House. I like the manufacturer’s model in white, so I started by airbrushing a lacquer-based white on all the wood parts (except the two main roof panels, which I did with black). I used a lacquer-based paint to seal the wood without the warping that a water-based paint would cause. I was able to start construction the following day.

I like laser-cut kits, but in general I don’t like the peel and stick trim. I can live with it for things like the frames around windows, but I can never get the corner trim to look nice. There’s always a dark line where the pieces don’t quite meet. So for this laser-cut kit I decided to do something about it. I borrowed a technique I learned for making corners while building many Campbell Scale Models craftsman kits in my formative years in the hobby.

Here’s a view of the front of the house, labelled to explain the changes I made to the trim:
St Williams House - Trim photo StW-House-02_zpsfc433b9d.jpg
(Click on the image for a larger view)

As it suggests, I cut the tabs off all four walls – including the edges that slot into the roof. On the roof edges, I also measured in six inches from the edge and trimmed back the end walls. This made space for 6″ x 6″ scale lumber to form the trim.

I glued the square strip wood to the edges of the end walls, working on a piece of glass and making sure that the strip wood was lined up with the inside face of the wall. I added the vertical side pieces first, then trimmed them to the angle of the roof. I then added one trim board to the roof line, trimmed it, then added the second and trimmed it as well. Some light work with an emery board cleaned up my trimming.

Next up: making all those windows and doors. I’ll tackle that as time allows – and will replace the kit’s clear acrylic window glazing with my own glazing cut from microscope slide cover glass. Stay tuned!