Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Modelling Spring Trees...

As most of you have probably suspected, I’m extremely busy with several other non-train related projects. Everything should be back by early April. However, our weekly club meetings do still happen and I was able to experiment a little bit with vegetation.

Sometimes, you venture in particular modelling topics without having even learned the basics. In my case, it’s all about tree making which I never really care about until recently since I never reach that stage with any other previous layout. And well, before talking about today’s topic, this is another good proof wasting time and resources on building a “dream layout” (aka basement empire) may lead you to never accomplish anything and learn very little even if you’ve been in the hobby for decades.

I wouldn’t write about modelling trees here if I was doing the habitual stuff: deciduous trees with or without foliage or conifers. Lots of information already exists about this subject and I feel having Gordon Gravett’s excellent series of book on trees and landscaping is already a great start.

However, a few years ago, I had the not so bright idea to model the moment trees are burgeoning and small and light green leaves appear. It’s one of these impressive moments of the year when you can truly feel the seasons are changing… and for the best since it heralds the summer to come. It has become a kind of tradition for our club, but generally, on that particular week end, we go railfanning and admire the blooming nature as train runs through revived scenery. I guess this feeling got the best part of me when selecting the season.

Unfortunately, this period of the year is hard to model using traditional means. Forget commercial leaf materials such as Noch because they are out of scale and can’t really model convincingly tiny budding leaves. I tried them and it looks absolutely wrong since you have to use them sparingly.

From this point on, I thought only painting the armatures various shades of brown, tan and gray to fit poplar, birch and other such trees would be OK. It was OK, but everything looked quite grey and didn’t fit the vivid photo backdrop at all. In a word, it was looking too much like the dead season.

Thinking about it again, it was evident two parameters had to be set to reach the goal: texture and color.

The new trees. They aren't as dark as pictures, but a another mist of light green will be required.
In spring, buds grow bigger and bigger, making the branches looking larger and denser than they really are. In modelling terms, it means your trees will required a very fine and dense branch system. While the fine wire-made trees could do the job, they lack the “expansiveness” of real life springtime branches. In that regard, Scenic Express Super Trees are more suitable for that purpose since they have a radiating structure that can replicate what we see during spring.

Color is the second parameter and it must be the right tender light green to convey the feeling of fresh budding leaves. However, as I mentioned previously, leaves must be really tiny. In HO scale, it means they have virtually no dimension. It can only be achieve using paint and I must acknowledge Louis-Marie and Jérôme to have suggested this to me.

Here’s what I found out last week when I took into account their suggestion. As I usually did, I spray painted many Super Trees armature with various shades of tan, gray and other earth color to fit the bark of poplar and other similar deciduous trees that grow along the shores of Rivière Malbaie. When dry, I misted a several very fine coat of light green spray paint over the top of the trees (just a puff at a time). When done carefully and from a sufficient distance, only the branch ends get covered in paint, creating the illusion of leaves and keeping the trunk and large branches intact.

Not all my trees were successful as seen on the pictures, mainly because I over sprayed the trunks with green and will need to touch them up. But in general, the result is clearly closer to what I had in mind. The light green paint really brings life to the trees and gives them much more volume. Also, I think I’ll add more green in the future since prototype pictures show the leaves are quite vibrant and it still not the case with my models. More care will also be required when painting the armatures. It is evident they should be lighter to better contrast with the forest floor.

Also, I suspect the same technic could be applied to represent cherry, apple, plum trees and other similar species in early bloom.

The process is far from done, but I think this small mock-up on the layout gives a good idea of what can be achieved. Evidently, much more vegetation will have to be added, like small bushes, weeds and grass. They will give more depth, texture and color to the scene, which will be useful to set the layout in Spring rather than Fall as has been hinted my many people.

Oh, and even if I already knew layouts consume trees at an alarming rate, I didn’t expect it to be so much. I believe about 3 entire boxes of Super Trees will be required to complete Clermont alone!

By the wat, the other protected grade crossing is progressing at a fast pace.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Grade Crossing Signals - Almost Completed

It took us a few months, but the first pair of grade crossing signals are now built, decorated and painted. Requiring the combined efforts of three man, the results are beyond our initial expectation. Some fine tuning is still required, but it is an amazing addition to the layout and operations.

It's a shame this special signal is only seen from the back! But that wouldn't be rewarding to cut corners!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Coop Agrivoix New Sign

Jérôme recently informed me he had pictures of Coop Agrivoix before the wooden grain elevator was torn down in the late 2000s. Looking at them revealed the Coop had a very large sign on it's side which I decided to replicate.

The sign is basically a cropped photograph that was printed on light cardboard. The framing was also printed, cut and glued on the photograph. Another layer of cardboard was added on the back to give more relief and strenght to the sign.

It was then glued on the building, adding another layer of detail to this structure.