Snowy Soo

Winter Railroading.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Friday, 7 February 2014

February Layout Update!

It's been a long time coming, but here's an update of the work I've been doing on the layout lately. Still lots to do, but with no end in sight to this long brutal winter, I'm going to hunker down and try to get as much done as possible in the next few weeks. 

Please feel free to comment on any of my posts.  

By turning the Walthers kit into a background building, I was able to  lengthen the structure, which extends out about only five inches from the backdrop.

Korex kitbash

Though this is a smallish layout, my hope is to keep the industries as close to prototype size as possible, even if they are just background buildings. Back in the transition era, many small industries were rail-served. These days it seems only the larger industries rely on rail deliveries, which creates a challenge if you’re trying to model the modern era on a (room-sized) HO layout.

Located at the end of CP's Area-H spur in west Toronto is Korex. It's a mid-size packaging manufacturer (I believe) that takes plastic pellet hoppers. Lots of them. The industry is served by four spur tracks and I've seen as many as eight cars there at once. There’s also a handful of storage silos both on the roof and outside the building and a truck loading area on the north side.

Here's a prototype shot of Korex. The industry is served by four spur tracks.

I looked into scratch building this industry but by the time you add up the cost of all the styrene, brick sheets, windows, etc., I decided it was cheaper and easier to kitbash it.

The kit I settled on was Walthers Paper Mill as my source of raw material. It had the right general look of a modern industry, lots of brick walls, varied roof heights and even came with some of the tanks that I’d need. The kit is supposed to be built with a square(ish) footprint with four truck loading doors and a door that can accommodate a railcar into the building. My plan was to turn this kit into a background building using the “fourth wall” pieces to extend the length of the structure. It's 35 inches long, which will give it the scale that I’m looking for.

The real Korex is served by four  spur tracks. I'm thinking mine will have two.

The build

I won’t go into a cut-by-cut description of what I did, but essentially my plan worked OK.
The Feb. 2010 issue of MR had a similar kitbash: they took a large Walthers kit and made it into a background building. In the process they created a structure that suggests a large industry typically served by today's railroads.

Here's how the MR project turned out. Making this a background building allowed the builder to use the "fourth wall" material to lengthen the structure. I took a similar approach with the Walthers Paper Mill Kit.
In many ways I this kitbash was inspired by an article in the February 2010 issue of Model Railroader “Build a Big Industry in a Small Space.” Here they cut up a Walthers Tri-State Power Authority kit in a similar way, making it a background building and using the “fourth wall” material to make a large background building (see pics above). The effect is that the building looks like a part of a much larger building that is typical of a modern, rail-served industry.

In the end I opted not to follow this MR scratchbuild of a modern plastics plant. See photos below of a flickr user who did. 

Another Model Railroader piece that influenced me here is a scratchbuild covered in their 1986 book HO Lineside Industries You Can Build (I'm not sure when the story first ran in MR, if ever). That build combined Pikestuff brick block units and styrene siding to build a modern plastics plant, also a very large background structure, similar to Korex. I took a long hard look at this story but decided to stick with my kitbash plan because the end result would come closer to the prototype I was modelling.

However flickr user Larry's Trains did follow the MR piece and that build looks great. See his pic above or you can click through on this link to see it.

So how did it turn out?

Um, not bad?

Some of the seams are a bit more rough than I’d like, though I’m still working on filling some of the larger gaps and putting putty and black paper behind others to make them less conspicuous. My building isn’t exactly like the prototype (click here for an aerial shot), I didn’t try to recreate every window and piece of piping, just the general look and feel.

I still have to do some light weathering on the walls, and I want to add the larger outside tanks, possibly from the Cornerstone PlasticPellet Transfer Facility kit, but essentially the structure is done.

There are plenty of nits to pick here: the brick colour isn’t really close to the prototype but I lost a key airbrush part during cleaning (it’s now on order) and I didn’t want to hold up the build while I got the new part and new paint. The weathering on the tanks didn’t turn out right and I may go back over it.

I will say that buying the Walthers kit (even though it cost  $70) was the right way to go. I’ve got loads of parts left over: wall pieces, windows, doors, roof details, etc. This material will come in handy for future builds/kitbash projects.

For my first kitbash (and second building) I’m generally happy. I’ll be less apprehensive about attempting a kitbash next time. I’ve heard many modellers say they view all kits simply as raw material for kitbashes and don’t even bother with the kit instructions. I like this approach. As I look at more and more layout photos online, I see the same kit structures popping up again and again, which isn’t the worst thing but it’s something kitbashing avoids.

Now I've just got to build the tracks down here. Otherwise, that hopper is stranded!

I’ve yet to lay track down the Korex side of the peninsula. I’m probably only going to run two tracks to serve Korex (the prototype, as mentioned, has four). But between the two tracks, the industry will be able to hold eight hoppers, so it will generate plenty of traffic.

This build has many flaws, but then when I take a close look at other layouts, including ones in modeling magazines, I see flaws there too so I’m going to move on to the next part of the layout without worrying too much about how this building fell short.  I can always come back to this building later. I'm keen to keep things moving forward.

Other layout progress

As mentioned before, I've decided to split the peninsula in half, with Korex (and possibly Battenfield Grease) on one side of the backdrop and 2 staging tracks on the other. The photo below shows the two sides. And no, I've not yet had a chance to update the track plan posted on the front page of this blog. 

So it's industries on the left, staging on the right. And yes, I will extend the layout edge on the right to prevent cars tumbling to the concrete floor below.

With this plan, there were now be staging on both ends of the layout. This way trains can move though, exchanging cars at Lambton Yard before continuing their trip "off layout." From there a switcher can work the industries. 

Still lots to do here, but the stream is taking shape.

Adding a river (well, a stream really)

One layout design element Lance Mindheim suggests is having a scenery-only area in the middle of your switching  layout to enhance the feeling that  trains are moving from one place to another. 

My scenery area is at the base of the inverted "U," where you see the partially sceniced slope. I wanted to add a small stream here and I've read a million articles about how to do this. Right now I'm wrestling with paint colours, trying to get the black in the middle to simulate depth, with a brown (or tan) along the water's edge. This remains a work in progress. So far I've not been able to create the "feathering" effect, but I've yet to try it with my airbrush (which, as mentioned above, is awaiting a part delivery). 

Right now I feel the edge colour is too "reddish" I'd like it more tan and feathered better into the black before I pour the water. 

The stone bridge I made using Hydrocal and a casting I built. It's not perfect and I've fiddled around with a few different pours and colours and I think I'm going to use casting you see in the photo. Making plaster castings for bridges, retaining walls, etc is quite fun. I think I've leaned a few tricks that will ensure I make a better mould next time.

Check out this guy's website for some great tips about using plaster moldings in modelling (he also has a casting service if you want something made).

So that's it for now. I'll be working on tracklaying the Korex spur this weekend and fiddling with the river scene. Your comments are always welcome. 

Also, I love linking to blogs/websites of other layouts that feature modern, room-sized switching layouts. If you see one that isn't already in my link list, please let me know about it by commenting on my page.

I wil leave you with a picture that illustrates what happens when a full bottle of plastic welder is dumped, by accident, on the surface of a foam-based layout. My advice: stand back and don't breathe in.

Here's were I spilled a full bottle of plastic weld on the layout. Went right though the foam of course. Perhaps this will be the future location of an HO-scale illegal toxic waste site.  

Happy modelling.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Another cool Area-H pic

It's great that you can now share images easier on flickr. Here's a shot of CP switching Area H.

Extensive layout update is in the works.