Thursday, May 31, 2012

Finished applying grass to the rural area

I applied several layers of Woodland Scenics and Scenic Express turf material to give the rural area an overall green tone and grassy texture. I also applied some ballast to the track once that was done. Ballasting is a job I don't like. If you look closely at the pictures you'll notice a few bare spots between the ties - I'll go back later when my patience has come back and fill them in. The ballast probably also needs a little colour adjustment.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The FORTRAN Building

And now for some silliness.
In most of my posts about HO buildings I focus on construction, but I’m not going to do that here because I tried something a little different construction technique-wise with this project that seemed like a good idea, but doesn’t quite seem that way in retrospect. So, any construction photos should be taken with a grain of salt as to whether you want to use the same methods

I’d like to say that this project, and others I’ve built, just magically popped into my mind from some model railroading muse. Far from it. They usually start with me rummaging around my spare parts box, unbuilt kit collection, hobby stores, or my junk pile just looking for interesting stuff. Same thing happened here. I bought these window moldings at George’s Trains last year because they looked interesting and were cheap. I had no idea what they’d be used for. Although, these days I’m in a frame of mind where I’ll buy just about any window moldings that seem intriguing – I bought some O-scale ones at a show a while back for just that reason.

One day I decided to cut the window frames from their sprues and play with them like puzzle pieces. I shuffled them around looking for some pattern that looked good. Some arrangements seemed ok, but nothing ‘clicked’. I got bored and set the pieces aside.

At times I thought about the project. Sometimes I doodled a bit. After all this pump priming, one morning the arrangement that became the FORTRAN building did all of a sudden pop into my head.

Still, no big deal. It’s not like it’s a cure for cancer. But, I think interesting things can happen when there is less planning, more playing with whatever is on hand, and then going in whatever direction that takes you. It can be a good approach for more than just model building.

The other thing with this project is I wanted to build it fast – well, at least faster than my usual approach which is quite slow, so I kept the building fairly minimalist so I could keep it moving. In those old articles by E. L. Moore, he always reminds the reader that his projects can be built in just 2 weeks. I’ve always failed miserably on that score. I have other things going on. I’m waiting for sub-assemblies to dry. I get distracted watching tv. I start other projects.

And so on. And so on. I’m an infinite excuse machine. I started actual construction on this project on 8 May and finished on 20 May. Mission accomplished! I decided to be an obsessive with this project and I made note of how I spent my time:
8 May: cut out all pieces for the walls; painted all pieces.
9 May: glued all wall and window pieces into complete walls; let dry.
10 May: cut out clear window panes; reinforced walls; glued 1 pane into place; made lots of dumb mistakes and then stopped working before I ruined something.

13 May: finished gluing in the window panes; glued all walls together; added view blockers; did some touch-up painting.
14 May: built the roof and glued it in place; applied base coat of paint to roof.
15 May: second coat of paint to roof; built up roof details and painted; puttied some gaps in walls; fiddled about trying to figure out how to build the sign.

16 May: did some more touch-up painting; figured out how to build the sign and made all the components.
17 May: glued up the sign and installed; installed rood details; did some weathering washes.
18 May: 10 minutes of colour correcting washes to the sign.

20 May: applied some light weathering washes to the walls.

{Aside: Yes, you’re quite right, the build diary does show that I don’t fully appreciate blogging yet. I still have a default setting in my brain that I don’t post about things I sorta feel that I can’t or won’t finish. This might pass with time, but I’m not holding my breath Also, I sometimes think that posting about a project while I’m working on it impedes progress, because writing and posting takes time, and maybe also takes away some of the momentum from a build. I can’t prove this. It’s just a feeling.}

This project was more about an idea instead of detail. I'd like to eventually get to a point where idea and detail balance out. Right now I'm at a stage where there is just enough detail to just satisfy myself that it does seem 'building-like', but more is needed to cross over into the won't-give-it-a-second-thought-it's-a-building zone of plausibility. I'd like to try and go there in future projects.

I had some trouble building the sign. What resulted was something too garish and sort of too big. There wasn't much I could do about the size short of rebuilding, but the garish colour could be easily corrected. I re-painted the most offensive parts - the overly red brick - with washes of Poly Scale aged concrete mixed with flat black. This calmed things down a bit and returned some sense of stability.

At one point I thought I’d use a couple of old computer punch cards to make the main walls. I looked high and low throughout the house to see if I had any relics stored away with my old junk. No such luck. As a kid, my father brought home a bunch of discards and I used them for the siding on the Mineral City Depot and Perkins' Produce. I thought for nostalgia value using some real punch cards on this project would be a nice touch. Since that didn’t work out I designed the main walls to have the dimensions of a punch card, and used some Poly Scale Aged Concrete paint to try and mimic the colour.

Well, there you have it. Finally, a build completed in 2 weeks! Now I just need to figure out what sort of freight car to use to haul all those translated formulae

Sunday, May 20, 2012

June 1974 and June 2012

[That's June 1974 on the left, and June 2012 on the right.]

A couple of days ago I was chatting on the phone with my friend vp. He told me he had a photo in the June Model Railroader Trackside Photos section (page 77), so I picked up a copy on my way out of town.

[Here's the centre-fold of each issue. That's a J. Harold Geissel drawing in the June '74 issue on the left.]

I had picked up some issues of Model Railroader from 1972 a few weeks ago and I'm still thinking about those old issues. The oldest June issue I have in my collection is June 1974. From the covers, you can see the difference in styles between then and now. The '74 issue has that strong '70s image orientation, and the 2012 has lots of textual call-outs. Although, it's interesting that both cover designs use the diagonal as the organizing element.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Texturing the rural industrial area

I’ve been spending time adding some basic ground texturing to the rural industrial area. As I’ve mentioned before, I just want a simple, flat area that can be easily reconfigured as I add or remove different buildings in order to change the scene as the mood strikes.

The procedure for applying the base texturing was quite easy. I brushed on a thin coat of white glue over a 6 inch x 6 inch square area and sprinkled on some of the sand mixture I used on the beach - to get colour continuity across the layout – along with green Woodland Scenics finely ground foam. After allowing it to dry for a day, I brushed up as much of the unbonded material as I could for later reuse, and finished by vacuuming up the remaining loose material with a Shop-Vac. This left a flat region with a fine Earth-like texture. I repeated filling in 6x6 squares until I had the entire rural industrial area textured. Elapsed time was about a week, but each working session was only 30 or 45 minutes so I could do some texturing whenever I had some free time.

Once the whole area had an initial covering, it turned out that there were a few bare spots here and there, so I selectively applied a second coat of texturing to areas that needed it. However, the second pass had a bit more green texturing than sand in order to start to bring out the vegetation.

Next step will be greening up the ground a bit more and ballasting the track.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Tracks on Tracks Train Tour

I only heard about the CBC's Tracks-on-Tracks tour today. Unfortunately, I'm not going :-(

Monday, May 7, 2012

40 years ago in May 1972

I picked up four issues of Model Railroader from 1972 on the weekend. The January issue contained E. L. Moore’s Dollar Model article on how to build his Carolina Foundry, so I was happy with that find. The cover of the May issue was one of those that didn’t have any text on it telling the potential purchaser about what was inside. The image isn’t as visually striking as that on the October ’73 cover, but I’m always impressed by the calmness – and confidence - of these advertising free covers.

The inside back cover has this fun Atlas ad. I’m a sucker for these kinds of drawings.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Ground floor renovations at Stella’s

One of the very first things to do was fill in the interior dimples in the walls left behind by the molding process. I don’t think the buildings in this line of products were ever meant to have full interiors, just some decoration inside the windows to give an illusion of one, so the insides are pretty sparse. And, frankly, I’m not going to do a full refurb job on the interior, just enough to suggest to a brief glance that something is going on inside. Nothing contest grade here.
Once the holes were filled and sanded flush, a floor was cut from styrene and glued inside the ground floor opening. Super glue was used to hold it in place. It was then on to some painting.
And the painting was actually rather enjoyable. I was getting the sense this was going to be a fun project. Successive layers of paint were starting to make this one pop. I won’t go into the details, but I hope the pictures tell the tale. I tuned up the shading on the brick, and used some thin red washes to enhance some of the exterior wood moldings.
One design element I had to decide on at this stage was where to put the stairs to get to the upper floors. After some humming and hawing, I figured they’d go against the back wall, and I’d add an interior wall to block the staircase from full view via the main windows. All one can see from a secondary end window are the stairs leading up to the yoga studio. I added a door at the end of the stair wall to suggest a small storage room, or stairs to a basement.
The windows were a bit tricky. As I mentioned, I didn’t want to do a full interior detailing and build out the interior window frames visually suggested by the exterior window framing. In the end, I simply cut a piece of clear plastic for each window, drew a ‘frame’ along it’s perimeter with silver and black Sharpie pens to simulate some sort of aluminum frame, and then superglued it over the window opening. It’s serviceable.
A service counter, record bins, and lighting will finish off the ground floor, but I think I’m going to do those details later and move onto building the upper floors.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Norman Bel Geddes: Futurama and the model railroader’s spirit writ large?

I came across this excellent article today about the various early projects (table-top football, table-top golf, The Nutshell Jockey Club, The War Game) the industrial designer Norman Bel Geddes undertook that lead up to his famous Futurama at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. Some great stories here. Worth the read.