Thursday, March 26, 2020

Route 138 in Wieland

It seems respected modeller Jim Dufour really enjoyed my technique on modelling roads. Knowing how Jim's work is outstanding, I must admit I'm humbled by this. And he's lucky I've been working on other roads recently for our club layout.

Route 138 was the "mythical road" modern road that opened up Charlevoix to the rest of the province back in the 20th century. While the railway did help a bit in 1919, it was still slow and not that much of help for people that lived many miles away from it. As a modern 4-way highway, it was the achievement of a project that traces its roots back in the French Regime. Ultimately, that road proved fatal for the railway, stealing a lot of business and cutting the travel time of passenger in half, if not more.  Now, Quebec City was only 1 hour away from Baie-Saint-Paul and about 1.5 hour away from La Malbaie. Even under perfect condition, trains can't hardly take less than 3 hours due to the serpentine nature of the line imposing severe speed restriction.

But well, as much as I can "despice" that dreaded road for having killed the train in the long term, it is a part of Murray Bay subdivision. The railway line and road stand side by side from Quebec City to Beaupré, then from Clermont to Pointe-au-Pic. From a railfan standpoint, everywhere both are parallel, you have a chance to see the train. Outside these area, you better be creative and plan your trip accordingly!

With that said, I can announce that road and a public utility shed have been successfully modelled and installed on the layout. These were the last items required before I can move on with the final steps of vegetation. As you can see in the pictures, the road is parallel to the track, but both are oblique to create a sense of dynamism in the scene. It is an old graphic trick to make a composition suggest speed and movement. I was curious if it would work with a layout and the answer is a resounding yes! I think this is another trick we can use to easily create more interesting scenes.

This time thought, instead of using illustration board, 1/8" thick MDF was used. Interestingly enough, it works as good as illustration board and takes paint very well. Painting and weathering was done with various spray paints and automotive primers (mainly grays and concrete) then weathered with airbrushed washes of a pale dirt colors followed by a subtle mist of very thinned down alcohol and India ink mix as Lance Mindheim used to recommend before switching to photos.

Road markings were defined with Tamiya tape after the road dried a few days. A this point, you don't want the tape to pull off your hard work. I worked carefully using Google Earth and Ministère des Transport du Québec (Quebec DOT) guidelines to make sure the width, length and pattern were accurate. Honestly, we underestimate the space between discontinued lines. It's about a ration of 1 part line, 2 parts empty space.

These lines were painted with a sponge. I think it works best and is less messy. Airbrush is also a good solution. If possible, weather you yellow with some white to make it a little bit faded.

I immediately removed the tape once done and using an Xacto blade, I started to scrape the fresh paint so it looked worn up. Theses lines, in North America (particularly in Canada and northern United States) never stay in good shape for long. Worst, most DOT have the habit of repainting them in late summer or fall, meaning they start to disappear the moment snow plows hit the roads.

Don't fear scraping too much paint. In fact, I always find myself redoing it twice or thrice until I'm satisfied. Then, it time for black color pencil. Using again Google Street View, I planted myself in the middle of the road, exactly on the spot I'm modelling and studied the cracks in the asphalt. These are intricate patterns that aren't random at all. They follow the invisible joints when the pavement was applied by working crews and also how the loads from cars and trucks put stress on the road. Most cracks will be parallel with the road markings and define the lane. Others are right in the center of lanes while perpendicular ones seems to appear due to expansion and contraction of asphalt due to temperature variation. Be careful, study pictures and you'll be extremely pleased by what you will create. Just make sure you keep you pencil very sharp.

Once done, a good coat of Dullcote will seal everything and provide a rugged surface that survive abuse better than plaster roads which are a pain to build and paint without getting messy. Except how I paint these lines, I've invented nothing, but I feel this method yield better result because you can bring the road to the workbench, sit and take time to make it the best you can. Basically, you are treating your road with the same care you do with rolling stock and structure.

Given most people have a more comprehensive understanding of how roads look like than train, failing to address this particular modelling challenge is a major flaw. Can't go cheap with them. And honestly, getting decent results doesn't take that much effort. Once you've done one, the others are a breeze to create. In that regard, Louis-Marie surprised me by recently making the most complicated road on the layout which is more than 10 feet long and curves in all direction. More on that later thought!

Keep safe!

Monday, March 23, 2020

There is a Time for Everything...

It was a matter of only two weeks and life completely changed in Canada. With the largest provinces in lockdown as of today for several weeks, is it now quite evident this won't be just a bump on the road.

Many readers know I'm suffering from poor health due to Chron disease and the treatment that makes my immune system rather shaky. In normal time, this isn't that much of an issue. But since Christmas, I've been down for a while with no signs of recovery. For this reason, my doctor put me in self isolation two weeks ago which I obliged since I'm in the "at risk population"... Yes, you know when you hear people saying it only kills old or sick people? Well, there is a face on that "useless bunch" and I'm part of the picture.

Some colleagues joked about that, took vacation and put others at risk, oblivious that apparent health could mask contamination. I'd like to say these irresponsible behaviors are the result of ignorance, but unfortunately, they are coming from well-educated, environment-friendly and well-meaning types. Do I hold a grudge? No... But it makes me realize that most of us, whatever our choices in life, may sometime be tone-deaf to our surroundings. I hope some of them will learn a lesson from what is happening... and I think some are slowly finding out things are not the Carebear's dream they thought it was even if the finger pointing has started... Maybe they should meditate the meaning of Danse Macabre.

Modelling in Uncertain Times

With that out the way, I realize we, modellers, have a great blessing: our hobby. When confined and out of job, we have the possibility to do something with our hands, create meaningful thing instead of binge-watching crap on TV. We can find a sense and immerse ourselves in something positive that create a state of peace of mind. Saint Benedict used to repeat "Ora et Labora" (Prayer and Work), stressing that a meaningful occupation was also a part of a healthy mind. His model certainly endured and gave rise to a magnificent legacy that what thrown out of the windows a few decades ago because it was "outdated". As I often say, I've always been wary of people thinking they can engineer the human nature or can put peoples in bold categories such as "good" and "bad". Not only it is useless, but it is deceptive.

My grandfather used to talk about the Great Depression. How he was lucky to be in a poor family in the countryside, because they had already nothing to lose, only what they could do by themselves. It kind of prepared me for things to come. With a failing health, a hobby budget that will soon evaporate and much time on my hands, I started modelling again. A small layout, a whimsical endeavour born from enlightening discussions with Chris Mear. I've not planned to take pictures at this point or document it. It is a very personnal project, a canvas... Until it reach a level I'm satisfied with, it will remain almost confidential.

While building my models, I've ran into several issues. I'm confined, most stores are now closed, postal service is slower everyday and I must save my pennies. What can I do? Well, I running out of large sheet of 1.5 styrene, so I'm salvaging and scavenging from other projects. Bits of wood are used instead. Want to model a peculiar locomotive with special parts? Why not model #72XX instead of model #70XX and save myself tracking down hard to get and pricey special part? Why purchase parts I can make myself with styrene, brass and wood if the result will be as good or even better by myself?

You see, in all that time of despair I can see in people around me, I understand this is only a cycle... It will last for a while and better days will come. But right now, confined in my home, I can still do nice things and feel my existence can create works of art. There is a time for everything...

I hope the best for you! Treasure your wonderful craft, because I personally know people that made their life a continuous succession of dinners, restaurants and other social extravaganza going completely nuts and giving up instead of making the better out of it.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Some Boxcar Weathering Projects

Over the last few months, I've been rebuilding and repainting a series of hi-cube and regular boxcars. Nothing fancy, but I tried to be as prototypical as I could, following era pictures. Certainly, these models aren't 100% accurate, but it wasn't my goal either.

Among them was this Atlas 50ft boxcar bought from a dissatified friend. It was one of these boxcar with the inverted Ontario trillium logo. CN had a few of them, so it wasn't hard to repaint to fit my fleet.

The other one was a NOKL LBF hi-cube boxcar. Not a great model, but the paint scheme was accurate. I decided to shave off a few molded on details and replace them with correct ladders and door hardware. A lot of work, but make some difference.

This one is a Wisconsin Central hi-cube boxcar. As always, Walthers got the paint color wrong and I had a field day trying to modulate it back to what it should be. However, I experimented with color pencils and also scratched the weathering with a blade to expose fresh paint. I found out the same happened on the prototype due to the door scrapping the rib tops.

With these cheap cars, I often think adding texture to the model bring out more realism. And by texture, I don't mean rust-bucket but subtle variations in color.

The last one was bought second-hand from a modeller that tried to weather it. It wasn't a success but I commend him from trying something. That said, when I discovered the weathering could be removed with alcohol I was thrilled.

Left side and door uncleaned; right side cleaned with alcohol

Incidently, some weathering was kept in the crevices, bringing some shadows on the model which wasn't a bad thing. Then, using my airbrush, I added a color filter on the Walthers infamous chocolate brown infamous CN paint. The effect was amplified with Panpastel, then sealed. A fading coat helped to blend together the various effects, creating a result closer to the chalky appearance of these cars.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

The Dark Side of Industrial Avenue

Another day and another time for layout design.

As regular readers know, I’ve built a small switching layout a few months ago for my office room. The idea was to get some train running and experiment a little bit. While I’ve been too busy to switch cars since Christmas, I also took time to analyze what I had in front of my eyes. Pros and cons started to become clearer and it is now time to see how I can improve this layout a little bit by taking into account my recent observations.

Actual layout track plan

First, I noticed I seemingly despise runarounds. For some reason, they get on my nerve and I feel I’m wasting time when dealing with them. I can hardly see fun doing such a thing with diesel locomotives and reversing a train only to switch a car in the opposite direction seems absolutely inefficient to me! I know some will argue they add “interest” and maybe they are right. But that kind of “interest” isn’t for me. I take much more pleasure at looking at flowing tracks than complicated ones.

That said, originally, the layout was based on a British gentleman’s own switching layout. I simply transplanted his track plan on my baseboard. He used 5 turnouts to create a runaround track, two main sidings (a feed mill and a warehouse) and a team track on the opposite side handling about 2 cars. All in all, 5 turnouts and 8 car spots. Not too bad, but I felt I could do a better job.

When operating last weekend, I simply felt the opposite-facing team track was unpractical. I felt the railway would have repurposed the runaround as a team track and got rid of the turnout. At this point, even one could question the very existence of one turnout on the runaround track if you don’t need to reverse the train. It would bring down the total number of turnouts to three.

But even then, I felt the feed mill and warehouse could share the same siding instead of wasting a turnout for nothing. It would make life easier. I was thus down to two turnouts and kept the same number of car spots (in fact, more car spots) while providing interesting classification work instead of shuffling cars into their siding without an afterthought.

Glassine Canada tentative track plan

While discussing this matter with Jérôme, he pointed out the layout was quite similar to an industrial branch in Limoilou that served industries on the East side of Avenue Industrielle.
This small spur connect to Murray Bay Subdivision under the highway bridge (which I incidentally once modelled), cross a power line (which I also modelled in the past) and serves a specialty paper plant called Glassine Canada and a long team track and several warehouses handling produce and building materials. Honestly, a perfect blend of cars. Better, at the end of Glassine Canada, until the late 2000s, you could still see old 40ft rotting boxcars in CNR Maple Leaf scheme and CP Rail Multimark bright colors rusting and serving as permanent storage.

AL21, AL22 and AL23 tracks are part of this industrial spur
 Interestingly enough, this would require only one turnout. But in fact, a second very short track served Glassine Canada and provided unloading for tank cars. An old 1970s aerial picture shows an attractive acid tank car in a red-orange paint scheme, probably a Hooker tank car from Niagara Falls.

Given I have all the cars required and already have built a handsome model of the highway, creating this layout would be quite straightforward while providing a modern (1970s-1990s) prototype-based theme fitting well my taste.

I already built the correct highway overpass for our old Limoilou-based layout.

Interestingly enough too, Glassine Canada offers another neat small paper mill than can easily be modelled. They received chemicals and paper pulp in boxcars, but also some additives. It wouldn’t be farfetched to believe some covered hoppers would also be used to haul starch used to make glassine paper.

Ajouter une légende

The produce warehouse means various reefers and insulated boxcars from all over North America can be used. Given the layout would be set into the per diem era, it would be quite colorful. Finally, the team track could handle virtually anything.

Given the sheer simplicity of this design combined with its fidelity to real life operations, I feel it could make for a great little switching layout that would be fun to build but also visually appealing. Most tracks were buried in dirt, old ballast, mud and grass, making for a great scenery challenge.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Grass for Clermont Again

Posting hasn't been regular lately due to health issues and other activities taking a good chunk of my time. However, it doesn't mean I haven't been doing modelling, only lacking motivation to write about it.

This week, I've completed the weathering on three custom painted Walthers 50ft Gunderson Boxcar. Blue NOKL cars were a staple on Charlevoix Railway in the 2000s and I felt I absolutely required a few of them to get a much closer impression of that railway.

I had a hard time findign suitable decals and finally decided to use Microscale 60ft Gunderson boxcar ones. Yes, 60ft, not 50ft. Basically, it is exactly the same lattering, except for obvious large capacity and dimensional data. But since these are extremely small, I thought I wouldn't even notice the discrepancy under close inspection without a magnifying glass. Sometimes you must accept compromises, I was ready to use the wrong decals in this case.That said, it resulted in a nice bunch of plain jane boxcar for newsprint service.

We also started to work again on scenery in Clermont, near the village. It is due time to scenic the last third of the yard and thus I put our good old static grass applicator in action. Working with prototype pictures of the area, I tried replicating the pattern of grass, dead leaves, granit embankment and other such features as the buried siding. I kind of like how the end of the siding blends into the scenery just like in real life.

It was also time to model the stone retaining wall. This signature element puzzled me for quite a while. Most commercial embossed sheets are not correct for this particular wall. I could also use printed picture of the real thing, which would be the best option, but it would require me to go to Clermont to shoot the wall during winter. I then elected to simply scribe the stone pattern on thick illustration board using a rounded finishing wall in a pinvise. Surprisingly, it worked quite well and I'm genuinely impressed by the results. Only need some painting and weathering at this point. Also, I cut a groove in the back where the wall change direction, thus I can fold the board without loosing the stone pattern continuity. More on that project later!

Edit: Many asked me who makes the derails. It is GLX Scale Models. Two options are available; with ties for new trackwork or without ties when installing them on existing track. They need some cleanup to work flawlessly, but otherwise, they are very nice details.