Thursday, December 8, 2016

A Lesson of Humility

Trevor Marshall recently commented on the impression of depth some pictures of Clermont have. I sure would like full credit for it, but a part of it is fortuitous. But what isn’t fortuitous is the fact I helped this to happen by carefully choosing and omitting things to model.

The station now blocks the view of the track leading to the bridge.

As much as I enjoy modelling structure – probably a professional deformation – I took a lot of care to only use what was required to convey the feeling of the place. There is a limit to what can sustain a scene and you can easily tip off the balance by adding only one element.

To prove that point, I decided to add a station building in Clermont. Most people would think it would make a lot of sense, set the era and be one of these key elements required to tell the railway’s story… and as the pictures show, it fails miserably to add anything significant to the scenario while ruining many elements that made the scene previously interesting.

The house on the hill is no longer visible the road can't play its role binding the scene together.

The addition of this relatively small and handsome structure obstructs many realistic perspectives. What happens is simple. First, the building blocks the view of other elements in the background and second, the eye focus is now attracted to the station and no longer the distant elements. In our eyes (and pictures), this distant background blurs and become secondary. No longer can the scene be read as one large unit and it loses automatically the impression of depth so desperately needed to make this small area look somewhat realistic.

We end up with a collection of nice vignettes that no longer work together. As you can see, before adding the station, it was possible to see the railway track serpenting nicely along the scenery and leading the eyes to an implied scene over the bridge or mountain.  This is another lesson to learn that we should gave much more attention when laying track and surrounding it by scenery. Too often, we plan our work from top view while it is meant to be seen both from the side (which is generally well understood), but also from the track itself and looking away.

The station now compete with the feedmill making the scene less cohesive and more chaotic.

As a said, I was quite lucky, but keeping the track ratio low, making sure the railway realistically flowed into the scene following the topography like the real thing and carefully locating a handful of meaningful structures helped to see the scene. This is something I’ve learned when I reworked and scenicked Clermont a few months ago and I’m quite happy to see the theory also translate well into mountainous and inhabited scenes. When I’ll have to work on the transition between Charlevoix and Dominion Textile in Montmorency Falls, I’ll have to make sure such simple approach is taken.

Once again, the “less is more” principle proves to be right when used carefully… and it doesn’t mean the scenery and structures should be simplistic, but that sophistication can be achieve by caring when doing mundane and very railway-like things. Too often, I see skilled and talented people waste their efforts trying to over reach when they don’t need to… and get discouraged. A huge part of this hobby unsung truth is knowing when to stop.

Monday, December 5, 2016

It's Springtime in Clermont

While subtantial snow falls occured last week in Quebec - turning La Bell Province into the proverbial Winter Wonderland - Spring started to show its face in Clermont.

We started to apply forest ground cover on the hillside behind the feedmill. The ground cover is a mix of blended oak leaves (fine and coarse), some small rocks and sand and various tree debris made of defect tree armatures. All was soaked in white glue, water and alcohol and left to dry.

Since the ground cover is now lighter than the dark brown base color, the scene now look larger and with more depth.

I could have covered more ground but I ran out of dead leaves. However, Louis-Marie started pruning and shaping tree armatures from various twigs. We collected them a year ago near Maizerets and we have three large garbage bags full of them. I'd like to say it's enough, but I'm well aware it won't be! Scenery is an insatiable monster.

Meanwhile, I found a new interesting spot for shooting picture. In fact, as the scene progress I find more and more new picture spots. This is truly a blessing because you never know how a scene will looks like during planning and early stage. Clermont was mainly a big improvisation and could have turned quite bad, but it is truly getting that "Charlevoix" feel.

Finally, we operate a full train that night which didn't happen since quite a while. It was good to see glitches were rare and that the new turnout handlaid by Taylo Main worked flawlessly. As I said, the turnout required some guardrail adjustments, but now the issue - which was fairly simple - is resolved. New plastic ties are getting cut to lenght and will be glued and painted. When that is done, weathering the track and adding ballast will be the next step.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Poor Man's MLW M420 Kitbash - Part 8 - Final

Back in 1987, I wanted a M420. I didn't know what it was, but I sure wanted it and when my parents bought me a trainset, I knew it was plain wrong. Later, my father gave me his own trainset with a zebra-scheme GP38-2. He assured me it was the same locomotive running on the mainline crossing our village. He couldn't fool my 7 years old eyes. It was plain wrong.

Then, after finding an old 1974 RMC issue in a bookstore located in Saint-Sauveur-des-Monts in Quebec, I discovered the locomotive of my childhood, which was incidentally a MLW M420 which could be considered as the last "true" ALCO and MLW locomotives.

In college, I found out Atlas made a decent C424 which could be used as a starting point to build a M420. I tried hard but my skills weren't great back then and the project utterly failed even if it reached a decent point.

Then, a few years ago, I bought an Atlas C424 equipped with a Loksound decoder. It was a great locomotive, but I had absolutely no purpose for it. At the same time, I contacted Jason Shron from Rapido Trains to pester him about making a M420. Since then, their company put many locomotives on the market, even a bus, but didn't care to reproducing a truly iconic Canadian engine that caught the attention of a generation... instead proposing a Confederation-themed passenger consist nobody cared! Rumors also say Bowser is interested in the prototype. I've heard it countless times over the year, never to see any credible confirmation to this claim except for a vague proposition from Bowser. This is why I decided to build kitbash this locomotive and to trigger the good rule that when you kitbash or scratchbuild something, it is bound to be mass-produced or announced in a matter of months after completion!

So here's my version of the famous MLW M420. Sure, it has the general appearance right, but I'm well-aware most rivet counters will have a good time listings the many shortcomings of my rendition. But to my defense, I know all the wrongs I did when building it. Never I tried to achieve full accuracy, it would have been impossible given the material I used as a starting point. However, I'm better off with this foobie on the layout that pretending an Athearn GP40-2W can play the part or that I can forgive the weird cab Atlas put on the same engine.

Given the framework within which this project was made, it enters the category "good enough". That may sounds lazy coming from me, but I'm not going to invest several hundreds dollars into a nice Kaslo resin kit or a brass import when I know my model is actually going to trigger the mass production of a mind-numbing and state-of-the-art plastic model! Yes, I'm trolling the manufacturers and I hope they'll get angry and back to their drawing boards because I'm ready "to own the fleet"!

Scratchbuilding a Farmhouse - Part 3

The paint job is progressing on the little house. It was painted all whit except for the mint green gable so typical of houses refurbished back in the 1970s. You can see that color all over the place on old house accross the countryside.

I also tested how things work together on the layout by placing the house on her dedicated piece of land. Well, I'm quite satisfied to report it looks good and complete well the area.

For now, all the structures required for Clermont are built. A total of three and that's enough to give a sense of place to this scene. From now on, my efforts will be focussed on scenery and ground cover.

Also, I discovered a new viewpoint on the layout looking from Clermont's road toward the Donohue mill. I'll have to work on camera focus in the future, but it is promising.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Scratchbuilding a Farmhouse - Part 2

More progress on the farmhouse today. I've added the "summer kitchen" to the main house and instead of a concrete foundation, I opted for a structure resting on piles. Salvaged roofing from the Pola/Kibri feedmill was used to created a steel screen hiding the building piles as was common in the 1970s. Also, the clapboard siding was notched on corners to look like a ColorLok siding without corner trims. Lots of work, but really pays off in the end.

A lot of bracing was added inside the roof to prevent warping. It also made gluing easier. As I often advocate, I installed soffites and fascias. These little details really bring to life mundane structure like no ones. And they aren't that hard to implement, even on plastic kit models from well-known manufacturers.

I'm quite happy how this little project is turning out. I thought about adding a veranda on the main facade, but decided to build a long wood galery as often seen on such houses. Another wood galery and a staircase will lead to the summer kitchen later.

The model is almost ready for paint. The last detail to add before painting will be a Hydro electric meter which is another one of my favorite small details. I'm also on the fence about addind a heating oil reservoir by the house. I'll see later when I'll place the structure on the layout.