Oct 21, 2013

Getting More Done on New Specs

After Springfield last winter, we decided to work on new specs to protect against shorts and help with track alignment at the ends of the modules.  We came up with a circuit breaker for each module set and rail butt joints soldered to PC board at the ends of the modules.  This was to protect the DCC system and to make it easier with set up with respect to rail alignment between modules.  Prior to this we had shorts and surges in the DCC system and used bridge rails between the modules which proved time consuming and problematic.

When John and I  were setting up at the CanAm 2013 Meet, I noticed that I still had not added the rail butt joints.    So, I decided to correct this omission  as soon as I got the modules home and back on their legs.  I used wet Bounty® Paper Towels to soak the roadbed and ties at the ends for a couple of hours then scraped off the ballast and the ties.  Shown below is one of the ends of the Wetlands.

Once dry, I added the really cool laser cut PC board tie sets designed for module ends by Larry Morton of  Tomalco Track and sold by same.  We got these at NASG Convention in Scranton.  They fit the bill perfectly.  Now there will be no more bridge rails, only butt joints.  As you can see, the ties already have a cut in the foil to insulate them.  I glued them down with water based contact cement.

Tomorrow, I will solder the rails in place and now there will be a solid set of rail ends to join to with the other modules.  All my modules are being upgraded in the same fashion.  Now to celebrate(like I ever really need a reason).

The 2013 CanAm S Scale Social: In the spirit of Arthur

(Workshop member Jim Martin reports on this past weekend's CanAm S Scale Social - an annual get-together that he organizes near his home in Ontario's Niagara Peninsula. Well done, Jim!)

One of my early mentors in S Scale was Arthur Lomax, a unique personality and a fine friend. In addition to being a great model railroading buddy, he and his lovely wife Muriel were the poster parents for growing old gracefully. Living in bucolic surroundings; surrounded by friends, hobbies and interests; and joyful in each other’s company; they became life’s model for my wife Cheryl and me. Both are now gone but we think of them often, and fondly.

Arthur was very active socially in S scale, noted for holding gatherings of western New York and southern Ontario S scalers/gaugers in his home in Flamborough, Ontario. They were fun get togethers, but with Arthur gone they sort of petered out… the Canadians staying on their side of the border and the Americans on theirs. Nothing unpleasant, just life getting in the way during the passage of time.

A few years back, I thought it would be fun to restore the tradition, so I emailed my friend Bud Rindfleisch in Hamburg, New York. He would spread the word for me on his side of the ditch and I’d contact the Canucks. I rented a community hall just down the Lake Erie shoreline in Lowbanks - arranged for a buddy to cater soup and sandwiches - and basically left it up to everyone to show up and make their own fun. Easy formula.

The result was a success from the get go. Two dozen people showed up, old acquaintances were renewed, and the conversation flowed effortlessly. In subsequent years the event has had minor tweaks with sell and swap tables, model displays, S Scale Workshop modules, mini-clinics, and visits to local layouts.

I call it the CanAm S Scale Social.

This year’s event is just over, and from the laughter and fellowship I’d hazard a guess that it was a successful gathering. The photo shows us all tucking into lunch. Layout visits after leaving the hall were to Jim and Barbara Tucker’s amazing HO layout under construction in nearby Winger, and my own home layout here in Wainfleet.

Although Arthur and Muriel are no longer with us, I have remained good friends with their son Phillip. He attended this year’s event with some of his father’s S Scale for sale. Phillip has decided he won’t have time for model railroading because he’s engaged in the herculean task of scanning and cataloging his father’s thousands of railroad negatives, a hobby in itself which is sure to yield many treasures.

It was fun watching Phillip making easy conversation with some of the folks who used to attend his dad’s gatherings. It all felt very circular and warm. Here’s to you, Arthur!

- Jim

Oct 10, 2013

"New" Workshop articles on the way

(Member Jim Martin has good news for the Workshop...)

Thanks to the Board of Trustees at the National Association of S Gaugers (NASG) and Don Heimburger, publisher of the S Gaugian magazine, we have been given permission to reprint some earlier articles about our work and our group members.

We hope to add them to our RMC and CRM reprints in the near future. (To better manage these files going forward, we've created a new page on the blog called The Workshop in Print.)

Stay tuned and thanks once again to Don and to NASG president Bill Winans for their generousity.

Oct 8, 2013

Jim's Doin’ Grass - Legally

(Member Jim Martin updates us on his scenery work on his home layout...)

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m redoing the ground cover on Port Dover, a decision spurred by Trevor’s excellent results on his Port Rowan layout. Trevor used static grass to excellent effect, but after a few experiments I’m still not confident in my ability to control the process, so I reverted to the same materials used on the back hillsides when I started building Port Dover seven years ago: wig hair.

Back then I used a chestnut colour synthetic braid marketed under the name African Gold. African Gold apparently has no website and Wal-Mart no longer carries this item. Having used up the last of it, I am now actively looking for another source.

I learned the wig hair technique from Workshop member Simon Parent, who in turn was taught by scenery guru, the late Bill Kerr. As you follow along in the pictures you’ll see that planting the “grass” by hand renders a nice random, wild-looking effect.

I didn’t like the original green aerosol colour but it was the best I could find at the time so I put up with it over the years. For this job I have used Liquidtex water-based aerosol paints. They are found in a wide variety of colours in art supply stores. I chose Chromium Yellow and Moss Green – blended together, they render a much more natural grass colour. These paints aren’t cheap, about 15 bucks a can, but I think they’re worth it. It helps if you can wait for one of Michaels store discount coupons. The cans are large and should last a long time. (Fingers crossed!)

This time around I am dressing up the grass texture with ground foam, flower patches and small bushes. Trees will be added as a final step when the module is placed in front of the backdrop and I can determine where best to place them. I am modelling early to mid-September. I’m striving for an overall green colour in my grass and foliage with the first subtle hints of fall colouration. Follow along, and click on any image for a larger version:

Retrofitting grass to existing ground foam scenery is a bit fiddly. It’s best to work in small patches. As shown above, prepare the area you're working on by removing trees, bushes and larger bits of foam and then mask the areas you want to protect from the spray glue.

In the above image, I’m using 3-M Super 77 spray glue, the low mist variety. With my other hand I’m holding a cardboard mask. Apply generously and work in a well-ventilated area.

The above image shows what the wig looks like when it’s cut into short lengths.

As shown above, roll manageable tufts of hair between your fingers so the strands line up, hold lightly and gently dab into the glue surface, leaving some of the strands behind as you lift up. Repeat, over and over and… Until....

Already not looking too bad. When the hair has been applied over the full area, use a vacuum cleaner hose to help stand the strands of “grass” up and remove any loose strands that didn’t stick. As shown above, the chestnut hair colour isn’t bad looking by itself if you’re going for a really late fall effect. The wig hair appears to have a lower sheen than the static grass products.

Above, the grass has been lightly oversprayed with the Liquidtex aerosol paints. The water-based paints do have a greater tendency to clog so it’s important to invert the can and clean the nozzle after each use.

You can really dress up the appearance of foam foliage clusters by hitting them with a light over spray of the chromium yellow. The above picture really doesn’t do justice to the treated piece on the left, but the spray highlights really help under typical layout lighting.

TaDa! Here’s the finished effect so far. I’ve added a fine landscaping sand into the fibres and around the edges of the treated area to blend the masked edges back into the layout. Other textures and colours of ground foam have been added. The larger bits kind of float on the grass and look really effective as small bushes. I then spray the area with a fine mist of soapy water and follow up with diluted white glue. Pushing the nozzle of the eye dropper or paint pipette into the base of the grass as you apply the glue really helps to anchor everything.

That’s it so far. I’ll hold off on larger bushes and trees until I see how it all looks against the backdrop. Cheers for now!


The Workshop welcomes...

... Paul Raham!

(Member Jim Martin picks up the story...)

Paul lives in Marlbank, Ontario and in addition to being a great guy, is also a highly regarded and accomplished S scale modeller.

People in this scale who complain about not having enough available models should try Paul’s approach. He is modelling the post-World War One era. As a consequence, he has to scratch build or modify just about everything on his large, double deck layout.

Paul has helped us out at past shows and will be a valuable addition to our numbers.

Welcome aboard, Paul!

Oct 2, 2013

Modelling Sideways and Backwards with Jim

(Workshop member Jim Martin has been busy on his home layout, and passes along this report...)

Hi Folks:

What great fun it is to be among the rest of the guys on this blog. I think we all conspire to pull each other upwards in our modelling aspirations.

Trevor is the latest culprit. His Port Rowan layout is a striking example of simple subjects done well. His ground cover techniques in particular highlight what is possible with modern products and techniques. So it is that I find myself starting to redo previous areas of ground foam which until now looked acceptable.

More about that on a later entry, but first, as I am redoing sections of my layout, I realize again what a sound decision it was to build my layout in easily removable sections. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to reach to the back of a permanently installed layout without damaging foreground scenery - or my back. But with the sectional approach, I can simply detach a piece and swing it sideways on the supporting benchwork:

(click on the image for a larger version)

Much easier to work on!

I can also rotate the section a full 180 degrees to facilitate work on the back side of the layout section, as I have done here:

(click on the image for a larger version)

As a bonus I can have some photographic fun, taking shots that would be impossible from the aisle. This shot will probably never get taken again: The camera is located about where the backdrop would normally be, looking toward the aisle-side scenery. The backdrop wasn’t painted to match that side of the layout, but the curving road helps with the deception.

I am now experimenting with simulating grass stalks using wig hair. I have used this material in the past on parts of the layout, but now think I can do better. I've done an experimental sample on a block of foam:

(click on the image for a larger version)

This is the direction I think I’ll want to take, with further refinements of course.  More on that in my next instalment.

Happy modelling!

- Jim