Weathering Heights – part 1

I’ve started my weathering project at last. The goal is to produce nicely weathered and realistic looking rolling stock. Easy to say, hard to do well – especially for someone like myself with almost no artistic skill. I’m less worried about the result as much as finding a bunch of different methods to produce different effects when I need them. Therefore any rolling stock will do and the items don’t have to be expensive and may get painted over and over again. Once I have a grip on what I’m doing whereby I have a better understanding of paint, thinners and chalks I’ll then turn to figuring out how to create the infinite weathering effects of time and nature: rust, dirt, paint fading and chipping etc. After that I’ll be able to work on detailing – adding grab irons, breaking equipment, ladders, stirrups, and so on. The detailing project may grow into a scratching project whereby I build boxcars from scratch but let’s not get ahead of myself.

My starting point was to choose a piece of rolling stock to be my first patient. My favorite piece of rolling stock is the boxcar: modern or classic. However I do have a special place for the 40′ boxcar – especially those built between the wars. I’ve had trouble finding books devoted to boxcar history but I was able to find more generic freight car books such as those written by Jeff Wilson: Freight Cars of the ’40s and ’50s, The Model Railroader’s Guide to Freight Cars, and Detailing Freight Cars.

One of my favorite writers on railroad history and modeling, Jeff Wilson books have been an important part of my general railroad book collection. Easy to read and full of great tips and information about the prototype they’ve broadened my knowledge in the many areas of railroading that a modeler needs.

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Control panel designs

So I’ve started working on the control panel design. The work has to be divided up between different functions required. Firstly laying out the space available for the controller, control panel and traction extension (see diagram). Then I need to select and design the hardware solutions and then finally decide on the panel front design. Tonight I attempted to layout the space roughly and get an idea of how to install the hardware pieces to hold the whole thing together.

I don’t enjoy this work. I see it as an evil but essential task if I am to get the design right. I used Sketchup to layout the space and solve some of the issues of suspending platforms for use only during operations. When not being operated the platforms either should be removed or folded away.

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Back to the Town

I’m very excited about getting back to The Town project now that the diorama is finished. I’ve been mulling over next steps: should I start on some structures or shall I finish the track-laying and powering up? I’ve decided to finish track-laying and the goal is to have a powered locomotive navigate the whole layout. I will also build a second cassette and the exit points and a proper control panel so that I can operate the layout in full before starting any structures.

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Creek bed water

I went cycling on the Lassen and Fernley railroad near Susanville CA recently. This old logging railroad runs alongside a river I so I was able to take pictures of the wide variety of plants around the water. The challenge will be to figure out how to model some of this plant-life.

The old railway bed has been turned into a cycle path. It runs for about 25 miles through some spectacular scenery.

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Creek bed almost done

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks detailing out the creek bed. It’s a process of layering primarily. I added one class of vegetation (such as grass tufts) each evening and then saw how that looked before continuing with a different class of vegetation (such as flowers). Things are slowly coming together. I’m not sure now if I need to keep working at it. I’m just about ready to add water. While I wait for the Woodland Scenics water to arrive I’ve been working on small details elsewhere – adding a vine to the trestle and flowers here and there. I may still add a fence to the east side to balance things out a little. I’ll do that over the weekend.

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Flowers and plants

So tonight I spent some time adding flowers and plants. Things are coming together slowly. I’m carefully positioning all the elements to try to create nicely composed scene. A rock here, a stone there, some weeds here, some grass there – it should all combine to create a credible picture but one that is nice to look at too. I’m enjoying finding that balance between real life and a pretty picture.

Grass is not one color or texture. There is a gentle variation of color within the strands but a group or area of grass strands can have several ‘sweeps’ of color. By mixing the colors of the static grass you can have a nice variation of color at a ‘granular’ level but by using an airbrush you can capture those colorful sweeps as well.

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Current Projects

I’ve put together a section called ‘Current Projects’ where I keep a diary of the various projects within The Depot universe. Presently these include The Trestle and The Town. I’m currently putting together The Town diary but I’ve finished The Trestle up to the creekbed construction. I’ll add sections as the projects progress.

Coming up in that section will be the construction diary for the cassette system, the station building, and the weathering project. It is a similar section the blog but with the posts gathered in a single place for easy reading.

The Creek

So I’ve started working on the creek. I ‘sat’ on the project for a few days working up some inspiration and then decided to just start. I’ve been wondering what to do here. I mainly want there to be a mix of colors and textures that change within a very short distance of one another. My materials are static grass of various colors and lengths, sand and stone of various textures and shades, miniature flowers, miniature reeds/rushes and then the usual flock and paint etc. That’s not alot of materials to work with but it’s a start so let’s how I do.

The starting point: strip off the previous materials and get back to a base on which to build the new creek bed. I also keep these photos near me for inspiration and to make sure I don’t go off on some surreal tangent.

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West Side Finished

It is now finished. No doubt I’ll keep tweaking it by adding flowers and colors but for now enough is done for me to really focus on the creek bed.

I wanted to add a scree. A real scree of course will have formed out of broken rocks from a rock face located above the scree. The embankment has no such source of rocks so I created a story of an earth slippage caused by rain that created a scar in the soil. Once that was in place I just added the vegetation around.

By now I actually have bunch of techniques at my service so I had much more control over how this side came together. As such it looks more realistic and there is a clear story being told about the trestle and embankment. I’m very pleased with it and feel ready to move on. My only small complaint is that there is not enough range in color ie too much green but I’ll need to experiment more at a later date with a wider range of colors before applying more color to future models.

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