Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Day three nearly done

5pm day three. Time to post some progress photos. Things are starting to pull together I feel. The ground is starting to look like ground. Though I don't think I'll ever get the colour of dried out earth exactly right. The buried track looks OK though.
The building seems to b a never ending job after I thought I had the bulk of it out of the way after yesterday. I decided to make a slight addition, as shown by the plain white section of wall there. I'm now happier with the shape of the building but it does mean scribing another section of styrene sheet.
So things are looking good. Technically I have until Saturday to finish things. But that might be difficult so I might have to be done by Friday. Will I get it finished?

More research pictures

Here's a few other shots from my research trip this morning.
You've already see the WREX hoppers waiting on the cut up line in the previous post. Well here's how they'll leave the yard. In bits in a gondola car. Here three gons are being loaded up by a Caterpillar excavator fitted with a magnetic grab.
The trees are one of the more unusual sights on the property.
Scrapping generally takes place outdoors (unlike my model) These next two pictures show some hoppers halfway through being cut up. A nice detail to note for modelling reference is the reporting mark and running number are crossed out.
Below is one of the WREX hoppers "wrecked"...
Righty Ho back to work...

The joke's on them

Just got back from an interesting research trip to Phillips Recycling in Saint Cloud. Plenty of good photo's. I wanted to share these with you as this is too funny to pass up. There was an line of about half a dozen grain hoppers waiting on the receiving line to be cut up and I don't know how many more were already in pieces. Nothing too amusing in that.
But just take a look at the railroad reporting mark though WREX (wrecks... get it.) It actually Stands for Western Railroad Equipment Company.
I had a laugh to myself when I saw that I can tell you.

There's a berm...

Didn't Peter Sellers utter that phrase or similar in one of the Pink Panther movies?
Well there's a bomb scare in town. In little old Princeton, MN. There are three suspicious packages. One at the post office, one at the high school and one at the Utilities offices.
What the devil does this have to do with the 7 day layout?
Well I've just soaked the track in PVA glue to fix the ballast in place. So that means its coffee time and the coffee shop is in the area of town under lockdown due to the bomb scare.
So I might as well trek out to a Caribou coffee in St Cloud and take some more research photos of the scrapyard while I'm at it.


It's the coldest morning since May here in Minnesota. 34F right here in town. The garage where I'm working on the layout is a tad chilly this morning. Luckily my first task involves some heat. I just realised I haven't fixed the point operating rods in place. So it's out with the hot glue gun.
If I can find the glues sticks. I know they are here somewhere...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Day 2 the story so far

Right then, after a quick jaunt down to Hobbytown in Brooklyn Park I returned armed with supplies to hopefully see me though to the end of the project.
The first job was to complete my ground covering. Before heading down to the hobby shop I added a little more spackle as described in the previous post so as the layout looked like this. Like there had been a snowfall. It's at this stage of a layouts construction that I always consider recreating a snow scene. But my previous efforts have met with failure so luckily that idea quickly passes.
Upon my return the spackle had pretty much dried so I set to and gave a covering of earth undercoat to kill the white of the spackle. I think that after just one coat of Earth colour it starts to feel like a layout. So I left that to dry and did some more work on the structure.
Oh boy this is going to be a long job. I went to the hobby shop with the intent of getting some corrugated embossed evergreen styrene sheet. But they were out.But they did have something called "Metal Roofing" It's a sheet of styrene with precision milled grooves in it where you place strips of .25mm x 1mm styrene strip to represent the distinctive profile of the roof. I see this style all over so I thought to myself.
"Why not. All you have to do is place the strip into the groove and a dab or two of liquid poly will hold it in place."
That is pretty much it. But there is a technique to doing that and it took quite a while to find the speediest easiest way to do that. lets just say the first section of roofing took longer to do than the next two sections...
So that I could take a photograph for progress purposes I gave the shell of the lean to a coating of grey, so it wouldn't bleach out in the picture.
There you go that's progress for today so far. Not as earth shattering as yesterday. But the building starts to look like a building. Hopefully tomorrow it will get completed and I'll get the ballasting done as well.

A word about spackle

I've mentioned my use of spackle as a ground covering and said that I've always used it right from my earliest layouts. But I don't think I've ever said how I use it.
I use a lightweight spackle. (For the Brits reading this It's kind of like polyfilla except pre-mixed.) I spread it out onto my ground surface much as I would when I'm icing our Christmas cake. It doesn't really matter how roughly you do it. Because lets face it unless your modelling a cricket wicket or something else thats dead flat you can have tiny little bumps and undulations in there. That perhaps later you can fill with puddles of water.
So there you are you have a baseboard that looks like a rough iced Christmas cake. Then you leave it for a while for the spackle to start setting. Mine is a quick setting spackle. So I've just about got time to write this post. Then I go and smooth it out by tapping down on it with my finger... back in a minute then
Right that's that done.
You have to wait for the spackle to start to set because otherwise it sticks to your finger and when even the tiniest bit sticks to your finger then it will pull more off the baseboard. Which is not what we're trying to do here. We're trying to smooth out what we have already done. Just tapping a small area down with your finger is really quite effective.
As I've been burying a couple of sidings in the spackle I've been taking great care to clean the rails off and running a wagon along the sidings to make sure everything still runs perfectly. Which it still seems to do.
Next task I think is a trip down to the hobby shop and get some more materials to clad the wall with. That will take a couple of hours. Plenty of time for the spackle to dry and then on my return I can paint it.

Ready for day 2 then?

When it came to 9:30 last night I was exhausted. That was a lot of hard work yesterday.
I didn't exactly finish after yesterdays last posting. There was nothing on the telly that appealed to me and Top Gear on BBCAmerica was a repeat. So I decided to crack on and fill out some details on the scrapyard building. The basic shell is 1/4" foamcore board and some 1mm card that came from the back of a desktop calendar.
The building shell was "knocked up" very quickly and while the glue holding it to shape was setting I rootled in my spares box looking for suitable materials to clad the wall with. I found a sheet of evergreen metal siding embossed styrene that looked eminently suitable for the lean to addition and from a Walthers low relief building kit I discovered a brick base for the main walls. You can also see a door on the end wall that came from some Pikestuff left overs.

That is all my spares box would give me so I need to get some more siding for the roof of the lean to and something to clad the other wall with.
A trip to the hobby shop may well be in order today.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Stumps on day 1

Right then. Pretty much the end of the first official day on the project and here is where it stands. As you know the track was down by lunchtime and working. The track and sleepers were sprayed with track colours to weather the plastic looking sleepers. After that I set out to block out the main structure to see how it would fit.
It looks OK but until I get some more detail on the structure it will be difficult to tell how it will sit in the scene. Don't forget that there will be a big pile of scrap in front of some of it obstructing your view of it.

Next task is to put down the spackle for the ground cover to bury the trackwork. That will be tomorrows task along with more work on the building...

Progress Photo

So he were are then an update to prove the progress.
The track is down and was just about to be sprayed with a mix of cans I found lying around. Dark Earth, Rail Brown and something called "Instant weathering" which looked like some sort of Light Earth. You can see the honking big uncoupler magnet at the start of the curved road. I tested it and it functions perfectly. The curved road will comfortably take 3 cars, the sort middle road 2 and the rear one will also take 2 more. Though that length is intended to be undercover. The feed-in track at the left is intended to be set up for a cassette system like PECO loco lifts
Now I have a choice of things I could do. I could start to put down the lightweight spackle ground cover or I could work on the half relief building.
Decisions, decisions...

Lunch on Day One

Make it sound like a cricket commentary doesn't it?
So my trip to Menards was uneventful the cork tile was in stock and I got a few other bits and bobs too.
Lightweight spackle for my ground cover. The trackwork will be pretty much buried and lightweight spackle is my favourite material for the job. It dries white and takes the colour from the woodland scenics earth undercoat very well.
I also needed some woodworking glue and you can never have enough Stanley knife blades and with a pack of 100 on sale for $5 that was too good an offer to miss out on.
With that it was off home and get on with it.
A couple of hours later and it's lunchtime. The cork is down, the track is laid and a locomotive has run to check the electrics. I even installed the Kadee under the track uncoupler and it works perfectly much to my joy.
So this afternoon I'll spray the track with some dark earth to kill the plastic look of the sleepers. That's a trick I picked up from Lou Sassi's book "A realistic HO Scale layout for beginners" published by Kalmbach. A book I bought several years ago and still refer to to this day.
I'll probably even start on the one low relief building on the layout too.
...and now the batsmen emerge from the pavilion ready to start the afternoons play...

Day 1 part 1

6:30 am. I was thinking that as I'm on holiday from work I'd get a bit more of a lie in than this. But I suppose once your body is used to getting up at 5am during the week then it takes a lot to get out of that.
So what is the plan today?
The first thing is to get down to Menards and get some 1/4" cork tiles to lay the track on to. It has to be 1/4" because I've got one of those huge Kadee #308 under the track uncouplers that I'm going to use on the front siding and they're about 1/4" thick.
So by the end of the day the minimum I want to see done is track down and working with the uncouplers sited. Anything on top of that is a bonus.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Clean up in aisle 8...

So the evening is here and it's time to sit back and reflect on what I've set myself in for.
How do we define "7 day model railroad"? Or more accurately, what do I expect to see at the end of the 7 days?
Lets say a substantially completed model railroad.
Track down, trains running, everything operating as outlined in the previous post.
Scenery wise, structures should be complete, ground cover should be down.
Back scene installed? Perhaps, though I have considered boxing the layout in with a proscenium arch for display purposes which might be stretching it a bit to get completed knowing my woodworking abilities.
Ultimately I'm the only one who will know if I've met the challenge. You're welcome to agree or disagree if you like...

Makin' it..

So, with American football not interesting me all that much this afternoon I split my time between the Minnesota Vikings and the model railway baseboard.
The theme of the project is "winging it" and that's just what I did. No thought to it at all. Just braced the edges of the shape and that was it...
Honestly it was a real fluke. I was just going through my piles of lumber and finding pieces of wood that were the right length. It was a quite a while before the jigsaw had to be fired up to cut anything.
See that strip of ply that is curved to the front of the layout? It was already warped most of the way like that so it was no struggle to bend it to shape.
The carpentry is to my usual standard so doesn't bear close scrutiny. But it is flat.
So, with Brett Favre having just thrown the game winning touchdown pass. I went out and threw some track on the baseboard to get a feel for what I can do with it.
As you can see, not all that much...

But I can see some kind of operation forming...
A mainline diesel brings in a few wagons for scrapping to the front (curved) road and leaves them there.
The rearmost road on the baseboard will be undercover. From here a small switcher, perhaps even a trackmobile, would appear and take the wagons singly into the "breaking shop" never to be seen again. The middle road would contain a couple of Gondolas that would intermittently be switched into the breaking shop to be loaded with scrap metal and wheels etc:. When full these would be switched into the front road to be collected by the mainline diesel.
So does this count as Day 1? I only had a few hours on the project tops.
So tomorrow before I start work I need to slide down to Menards to get some cork sheet and some masonite to use for the backscene.

Spare us the Cutter...

So, I had a piece of wood for a baseboard. But what should I model?
As I said the first things that jumped into my head were rivers and docksides, probably because of that nice flowing curve but strangely I went in a totally different direction.
A scrapyard.
Don't ask me why. Perhaps it's because the wife and I drove past one on our way to dinner on Friday night. More likely its because there is one sited across the track from the St Cloud, MN Amtrak depot. I have lots of photographs of this particular scrapyard. Here's a few for you.
This is a favourite shot of mine. These boxcar ends are being used to hold up a pile of scrap.
There are lots of wheels lying about
Some gondolas being loaded with scrap
A boxcar waits to be cut up
A big pile of scrap stands alongside an unlikely tree. Both would make good view breaks
So really it was too good an idea not to pass up. Rail served at both ends of the process. A perfect subject.
So on to making the baseboard proper.

How did I get here?

The other week I saw this piece of wood in my garage. The shape intrigued me and I felt compelled to build a model railroad on it.
The offcut is some 5/16" ply 5' long by 12" deep at its deepest point. I had grand thoughts about rivers and docksides but in the end I went in a totally different direction of which more later.