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A 1950’s scene

I like the looks of masonry structures for my 50’s scenes with only a few wood ones as in reality, most of them burned down by then. This angle of the scene is not appreciated as the viewer would have to lean over the layout to see it this way. The streets are laid out at an angle to the layout edge to avoid those parallel lines that make scenes boring.

 

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Logging Repair

The logging Repair project is on hold for now until it’s placed in a permanent location on the layout. This is my first attempt of the board by board construction with strip wood made on a table saw. The base ground color is #1090 Cumbres Earth, #1183 Oak Creek Orange ballast and dabs of other Az Rock products to enhance the scenery.

The scenery was done before the structure was built. A future rail spur is modelled with the graded roadbed, ties and spike kegs waiting for the track gang to lay the ties and rail.


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Leaning tower at 2nd and Commerce

From the Kalmbach book; BRIDGES & BUILDINGS
By Gordon Odegard and Dan Rauschenberg
An eight-sided gate man’s tower that houses controls for pneumatically operated crossing gates.
These octagonal towers were built by the Milwaukee Road found around the city including this one on at 2nd and Commerce in Milwaukee. The authors found this one unique because it leaned to the South. It dates back to the 1900s and was still in use during the ’60s. The article included scale drawing and photographs but not a model of the structure.

I used Campbell’s lap siding, windows and black tissue paper roofing material. Floquil’s Reefer white and Santa Fe Blue make my model fit a Santa Fe color scheme.
The tower stands tall so the operator can see over any trains in his control of the crossing gates.

The tissue paper roofing material was pained with Floquil’s weathered black.

The model will be moved to a more appropriate area still under construction.

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CAVEMAN ELECTRONICS

The model railroad industry has gone in almost complete denial that thousands of us still run with DC throttles. An exception is MRC with its various transistor power packs. They also make a walk around a unit called the CM20 of which I have for my mainline cab and could now use a second one. This is ideal for staying with your train where ever it is around the layout. This system allows you to unplug the handheld unit and move it to another telephone jack where ever you installed them around the layout. The train continues at the same speed while unplugged. For my yard, I don’t need that elaborate of a system that costs about $200.00 for a local control throttle. To save time, I would have purchased a simple handheld transistor unit, but no one makes them anymore. The commercial ones I used in the past have all burned out so they’re in the dumpster. The picture of the home built one you see below was built 33 years ago and it still works fine. It consists of three components. An 18-volt power supply, a filtered DC circuit on a perf board, and the simple transistor throttle itself. If you know nothing about electronics, find the book below and you will be able to master what I call “Caveman” electronics. I purchased the second printing of this book in 1975 and the author did well by assuming the reader knows nothing about electricity. I have built many projects from the book and got them to work even thou I had to substitute some components. Now that my second throttle works, plans are underway to build a high powered walk around the mainline controller.

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Paper Bag Scenery Tutorial

SANDSTONE CANYON
This is a method of creating a “Tough Skin” scenery shell that is lightweight and less messy than plaster. I now use a two-layer process with spray foam in between the back and front paper. The foam allows some density for planting trees, fence post and whatever for stability. Every now and then at the groceries store, I ask to have my purchases bagged in paper bags. Open up the bag at the bottom and cut out pieces that fit your scenery situation. There is a seam in the bag, so I use this for the first layer that won’t be seen. I use Carpenters wood glue for securing the edges in place. Follow the instructions below for a detail of the method. Crumple up a paper shopping bag and then open it up. I cut a section of it to fit the scenery slope at left. It was first glued along the edge of the sub roadbed and allowed to dry. Now the bottom edge is glued in place on the lower bench work. A paper flap was also glued to the edge of the viaduct and allowed to dry. This will later be folded over and glued to the other vertical paper bag. After the photo was taken, more bag material was added at the right until it met the existing scenery. A piece of Styrofoam was glued in place so the paper flap can be folded over and glued in place without collapsing the adjacent paper. You can install cardboard or Styrofoam supports every so often behind this shell system. I do it only when the scenery is at a more gradual slope for strength. The second layer of paper is glued at the bottom edge only because I’m going to start filling in between the layers with spray Foam. That second layer of paper is held open with the tape measure just for the picture. I thought it best to keep all the store brand printing on the backside from the side that will show. One can of foam do about four square feet of scenery shell.

It’s best to have that much area ready so the entire can will be used up. A second area was readied for foaming so I could use up the entire can of foam. The top paper is glued at the bottom edge and pulled back for the picture. The paper on the other side of the track is also doubled and will be pulled back for foaming. The foam was sprayed in full-length rows starting at the bottom and stacked just short of the top. I quickly raised up the paper and glued it at the top. The foam will expand to twice its size as you can see the bulging of the paper after it cured a couple of hours. I will use some plaster of Paris to fill in the gaps as you see in the photo above. The same was done in this second area also. The carpenters wood glue was used to attach the paper after it was filled with foam. I spray the unruly paper with water to make it softer for laying against the foam underneath. Very important step Immediately after Plaster of Paris was applied to close up the joints, I bushed on a soupy mixture of scenery color and texture. For this, I used Cajon Powder and diluted glue. The mixing bowl and stiff brush are seen in the photo centre. As I worked, the plaster began to harden so the color brushing continued until the white plaster was coloured over. A second coat touch up was done in a few places to tone down the white of the plaster. I don’t want the plaster to come loose and fall off the paper. The glue mixture with powder will create a lasting bond as it somewhat mixes with the fresh plaster. One 11 ounce package of #1200 Cajon Rock Powder was enough to color the scene at left and below. Some of the “white” from the plaster shows through that gives the rock face interesting highlights. Immediately, the rest of the powder was sprinkled over the still wet scenery. Then some “Zip Texturing of #1203 Sand & Gravel, #2 Dead & Alive ground cover, #9 Fine Green Blend Grass and #1205, 1207 Cajon Rip/rap material. End it up by lightly spraying with wetted water and dripping on the diluted glue. Gradual slopes as this hold the loose rock as in nature. The very four ground, back scenery and backdrop painting are not finished yet for this article. When that is ready, I’ll plant many of the trees I’m working on. The next tutorial will cover the topic of preparing this same terrain for the planting of brush and trees.

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Concrete and Asphalt Paving Powders

Concrete and Asphalt Paving Powders

These products are rock powders that will provide a slightly gritty scale texture. They can be applied to any surface that white or yellow carpenters glue will bond to. We have applied the products to Styrofoam, plywood, Homasote, cork, cardboard, matboard, plaster, and Masonite. Why use these products instead of styrene or manufactured ready-to-use material? I consider modeling as a three-dimensional form of art. When you apply a material such as this with even the greatest of care and finesse, those human shortcomings will show up in the finished model. This is what gives the work character and interest to the viewer even if it’s only you. Plaster could be used for roads, streets and sidewalks; however, sanding is required to fix the surface and the plaster dust is a real nuisance to clean up. My downside of plaster is that it sets up way before it smooth enough for a road surface. Our products will have an acceptable natural color right out of the bag, and you don’t really have the weather to surface for a believable scene. Materials;

(#1030 Asphalt Paving Material) or (#1290 Concrete Paving Material)

White or Carpenters glue

Mixing bowl

Artist palette knife

Broad knives from one to three inches wide

Razor saw

120 grit sandpaper

AZ Rock dry color pigment kit #14

Rubbing alcohol for diluting stains

India Ink

Mars Black acrylic paint

The usual variety of brushes, model paints, hobby knives, and eye droppers.

The real fun begins after our products are installed, cured and dry. Concrete will have expansion joints and curbs tooled on the surface. Liquid and powder stains will be applied for the weathering. Asphalt streets and roads can have potholes and patches applied with Acrylic paints and so forth. Before you begin, make some field trips and take pictures of what looks interesting to model. There are two methods for applying the material.

Dry method;

I used this method for a gas station or parking lot diorama on a 1/8 Masonite base. This could be likened to the method used by the Navajo Sand painters. When everything is dry, the base can be tipped to remove the extra sand. I have lately been building urban scenery with streets, sidewalks and driveway aprons appropriate for each situation. I use 1/8 inch Masonite cut to the size that fits a half to full block of buildings including the sidewalks. Any driveway aprons or alleyways are filed and sanded on the edges paper-thin. File and sand the corners to the radius of the sidewalk corners at any street intersections. Lightly sand all curbs to a slight radius. Set your buildings back on this base and see how they fit. These dioramas can be built on the benchtop and assembled on the layout for that urban scene. Now you can make your streets with either our “wet or dry” method.

You can use this method on your already installed bench work except step #7 below becomes more important.

1. Brush full-strength glue on the area to be paved.

2. Flatten the glue with a palette knife to provide an even layer.

3. The glue will begin to dry on you in places, so lightly spray it with water.

4. Sprinkle on the powder as evenly as possible.

5. Use a dry palette knife or bread knife to flatten the powder into the glue base. Don’t let your tool dig into any wet material as it will make lumps in the surface.

6. If globs of glue come to the surface, add more powder and flatten it out with your tool.

7. Keep trawling the surface until the entire area looks slightly damp and stop. If you ended up with a lumpy mess, you can save it by using our “wet” method below starting at step #5.

Wet Method;

This is useful for applying pavement to any area on the layout whiter it’s on a slope or flat. Perhaps you have an old-style gas station where the pump island area was humped for getting those gas tanks absolutely filled. This feature can be added later to the base you built using the dry method above.

1. Pour some diluted glue and water (1 glue/3 parts water) into a mixing bowl. Add powder and stir until you have the consistency of toothpaste.

2. Spoon some mixture on the layout. Even after stirring, the powder will quickly settle to the bottom. The spoon allows you to keep the mix in the right proportions for your work.

3. Begin by working the material into the surface for establishing a good bond. Then flatten it out with a palette and/or broad knife. Now you’re learning what a cement finisher goes through. The thickness should be about 1/16 inch.

4. There will be places that are too soupy on top, so add more dry powder to stiffen it up and continue trawling.

5. Add more diluted glue to any areas that are to dry and can’t be worked.

6. Continue trawling until the area is flattened to your satisfaction.

Custom sidewalks before or after?

 Free handing curbs has never worked out for me as they come out to squiggle and vary in height. A very beat up part of town will have some crumbled curbing. 

I will try this only in short stretches by leaving gapes in the method below. I have successfully used very thin corrugated cardboard cut to size and glued in place. Weight them down until dry because it will curl. When dry, coat with the wet method and apply thinly with a brush and smooth with the palette knife. Brushing on the soupy pigment always requires two coats. Let the first one dry and then quickly do the second so the first doesn’t come loose. Take care to fill the edges of the open corrugations and tool the curb radius as true as possible. When dry, coarse sandpaper can be used to dress up the surface and edges. I used cardboard that was similar to a small USPS Priority mailbox. I use the brass angle that has each side snipped at an angle an 1/8 inch of angle is left one the end. File and sand away the burr left from the snipers.

Tracks in the street or a crossing at grade;

Drag the tool along the guller area where to street meets the curb. Flip to tool over and now drag it to form the curb edge. I use the “wet method” for the areas outside the rails. The pavement will have to be applied thick enough to cover the ties and nearly up to the rail height. Between the rails, clearance must be maintained for the wheel flanges.

 I used a thin matboard cut narrow enough to allow strip wood on both sides for a steel flangeway. Short sections are easier to handle and use full strength glue to hold them to your wood or even plastic ties. Weight them down to eliminate curling. When dry, brush on the wet paving material just enough to cover it. Flatten with the palette knife. Pre-paint the strip wood with a color like “Rock Island Red” (iron oxide) and allow to dry overnight or longer. I hope your cardboard was narrow enough to fit the strips in place and allow clearance for the wheel flanges. Trim the mat board to make this happen. Glue the strip wood where it touches the mat board and install spacers between it and the rail to keep it tight until dry.

This was for straight track. For curves and switches in the street. You’re on your own, however, that same method should apply. Just maintain clearances for those moving parts such as switch points.

Several of my grade crossings are planked with strip wood such as Campbell Scale Models profile Turnout ties. In that case, pave up to the two or three planks outside the rails. I stain them with our #1430 Earth Pigment diluted in rubbing alcohol. Our #1145 Black Pigment us used for the Creosote look on the ends. Slightly dry brush the surface with an off white or light gray for simulated sun highlights to make that effect pop out.

Detailing and weathering;

You can go as far out as the imagination allows. How about a car at the service station with the hood open and steam pouring out of the radiator (cotton) and antifreeze running across the driveway into the street sewer grate (green paint). Asphalt doesn’t lend itself to dramatic detailing like concrete so let’s talk about that. You can pick and choose from this what would also work for tar roads, so let’s move on.

Use the tip of a razor saw or a dull X-Acto knife to score expansion joints in the street and sidewalks. Score down the center of the streets right through any intersections. Newer streets have the curb and gutter as an independent pour. For that score a line down the street about a ¼ inch away from the curb. Now score from the curb to curb for the cross-expansion joints about 10 or 12 scale feet. Use your head and don’t let any scoreline cross like the curb and gutter lines if you made them. The sidewalk curb line is very critical. In HO Scale, mine is about a 1/8 inch wide. Keep that width absolutely parallel to the street side of the curb. If my sidewalk is about 3/4 inch wide. I make the cross joints about that distance apart. Whatever, keep them all the same equal distance. Here again, start the score from the curb score and move your tool towards the building. Now you will know why I never glue my buildings in place as they get in the way for this maneuver. I get my cast metal sewer grates and manhole covers from Durango Press. Carve and/or drill depressions on the pavement for these. I pre-paint them grimy black and weather them with my 1400 rust powder. Older pavement will crack from those heavy trucks and/or winter frost. Score jagged lines in the surface with a sharp tool and keep them random in shape, size, and location. In a couple of places, I carved cobblestones into the street (random size area about an inch or so) and painted them a brick color.

Now, drill appropriate size holes in the sidewalks for fire hydrants, signs, and power poles but don’t install them yet. Sweep or vacuum that and the scoring mess for now. Consider what you want to be painted in the streets like center lines, parking spaces, crosswalks or even RR (dry transfers) for an approaching railroad track. Paint leaks under masking tape so freehand with a brush and paint, or best, colored markers if you can find them. Mark these areas lightly in pencil with a straight edge first to keep things straight. Now get out the Mars Black Acrylic paint and apply it to your street expansion joints, pavement cracks and edges of sewer grates and manhole covers. I sprinkle on a few tabs of my White Chalk Powder #1440 and let everything dry for a spell. Tires leave blackish streaks on the pavement so with a very small and stiff artist brush I apply #1450 Black Powder. Be cautious with the pigment on the brush and have only a track amount on the bristles.

Make random arcs around intersections where cars pealed around the corners. How about horrible skid marks through an intersection? That white chalk powder left in the street, with a stiff brush, tone down all places with a little scrubbing that looks too black. I use the #1440 White Chalk Powder to tone down bright shiny colors on all my railroad structures. I do this while the paint is still tacky, so it imbeds into the surface. I am a “non-dullcote” person except to protect some models from having the weathering smeared through handling. If you did all of this, you’re on your way to becoming an artist in other things as well.

Place your hydrants, power poles, signs, people and vehicles in the scene. The best part is you don’t have to be done quite yet. There are many detail items you can place like, trash cans, phone booth, dogs, jaywalkers, park benches, newspaper stand, pop machines, mailbox, paper trash, cardboard boxes, weeds and a little dirt ( #1090 Earth or #1020 Light Earth).

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Weathering A Few Freight Cars

The same pigments I use for scenery and used for weathering all the structures you have seen on this web-site have now been applied on these freight cars. Call this “The Art of Model Railroading” as I wanted to make my weathering very obvious. Someone made a statement recently on the internet that Athearn’s rolling stock is not selling anymore and gathering dust on the hobby shop shelves. Consider using them for these extreme weathering techniques and I’m sure they will get as much attention as those highly detailed ones at six times the money.

You can’t believe everything printed by the model press. One of their highly endorsed techniques for weathering was to use dirty thinner. The results on plastic were very bad and the models looked horrible. Floquil’s weathering sets don’t cut it either as their to shiny. What you see here is my pigments applied over the tacky paint. Old paint turns to chalk and therefore not glossy looking.
Floquil’s Grime was applied to all these cars and then different combinations of my powder applied.
In some places, Dull Coat lacquer was applied to further distribute the pigment to make it adhere.
Only Dull Coat and black pigment were used on this car.
Care was taken not to hide the car logo’s so you could still read them. A little orange pigment was used to simulate fresh rust right of the door.
A stock car according to the late John Allen, will have a lot of “white” at the bottom to show the user of disinfectants.
Take a good look at the next freight train rolling by and notice the extreme disrepair of some units. I saw a couple up in Flagstaff a while back that were so bad one could hardly believe they were still in service.
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BUS STOP

Our fleet of city buses was very worn out by the time I was old enough to ride. Russell and I were 7 years old when he suggested we take a ride over to Laurium (3 miles) from our neighbourhood in Calumet. We scrounged up the fifteen cents and a nickel for a transfer if needed to get back home. It was a daring adventure at the time as our parents had no clue what us kids did in the summer roaming around town. We got home an hour later and none knew the difference until we bragged about it. Looking back, I’m glad we did it because the bus service was shut down a year or so after that. The three ladies are going to catch this bus. Sitting on the bench are a couple of old scoffers betting on whither the bus would even make it to this stop. They know this particular unit has a bad right rear axle bearing, a wrist pin knock in the engine and chattering clutch. In the waning days of operation, it’s called “break down maintenance”. And the dog, he’s been caught sneaking on the bus before. This is a people-friendly bus stop with a newspaper dispenser, mailbox, bench and phone booth. If you have a long wait, the diner can provide a quick bite to eat and/or something to drink.

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TRAIN WRECK Nightmare on the Chief

Is this the horrible result of a model railroader that switched from DC to DCC?
(My scene was inspired by an article in Trains Magazine published many years ago.)

The scene was built in twelve hours including hand laying the track. High Desert Soil (#107-03) is the ground cover with some #40 Blended Grass and # 62 Conifer Green Foliage amidst broken ties and twisted rail.
OOPS!
Looks like someone threw a switch the wrong way again.

Used 1302 as ballast, 1032 in between the tracks and 1250 as ground-cover.

The scene is modeled after a real train wreck between no. 8, the “Fast Mail” and no. 19, the westbound “Chief”. This disaster happened in September 1956 at Robinson siding New Mexico.

The Northbound Mail was sitting in the hole waiting for the Chief to pass by when the North Switch had been thrown the wrong way in the middle of the night. News reported out of Albuquerque was able to hop on an airplane and get aerial pictures of the devastation.

 

 

It’s totally impossible to have a head-on collision like this using DC.

Now look at the mess, twisted and burned diesel with death and injuries to the crew.

 

 

Use 1307 as the rocks

The Undertaker and Priest were summoned to sort out the living from the dead. “Oh why, oh why”, asks the owner of this layout, “if I stayed with DC, this never would have occurred”.

 

 

 

One of the Santa Fe’s private cars was at the rear of the Fast Mail and the occupants escaped injury even though the train was shoved back a car length from the collision.

 

 

 

In the wee hours of the morning, the boom car was brought in from Raton NM to salvage what it could. In order to lift the passenger car, numerous lead weights had to be installed in the Athearn boom car as a counterweight.

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Comic Strip

Using photos for a cartoon strip require close ups that keep everything in focus. Flaws in the model work now show up dramatically such as the unpainted wagon spokes, shiny cloths and the right shoulder of the man not glued in place properly.

To make the characters larger in the picture box, you need to crop them out before you reduce the picture size. Now the flaws in the man really stand out.

You now need to decide if the overall scene will be of interest to the readers even though the characters are small and without action. Traditionally, cartoons are about the characters and the artist draws them bigger in the frame to show features and action.

Notice the expression and body language of Walt in my drawing. I need to find a way of drawing my characters and overlaying them on my photos for many of the frames. Just drawing the characters would save a lot of time when using existing scenery for a cartoon.