Saturday, August 26, 2023

Restarting the Modelling Season

The last two months have been quite calm due to vacations outside the country and taking some time off after the big effort to complete the Charlevoix section of the layout. There are still some little elements to add or finish, but we can consider it mostly done. Thus our attention is turning toward an area that was left alone for too long. In fact, many years!

First train of the season, fresh from the shops!

Indeed, it's time to work again on Villeneuve, with fresh eyes and experience gained while working on Charlevoix. Lots have been discussed yesterday, including inverting the scenes, adding an overpass and other ill-thought schemes. As always, after exploring crazy ideas, we generally go back to the original plan! Which is to complete the scene as it was originally designed. While it could be interesting to remodel Villeneuve, we have to keep in mind the track plan was carefully designed and swapping elements that seem trivial could lead to serious operational incongruities.

Track plan and operation aside, the big challenge is getting the backdrop right. As most of you know, the cement plant was demolished a little bit less than 20 years ago and the land has been redeveloped as condos. It's virtually impossible to take pictures of the area and expect it fits an industrial setting anymore. Also, with trees growing a lot since then, many vistas are now impossible to capture on camera. Something else will need to be done... another similar area with similar topography.

Another big issue is using if we really want to continue the early leafless spring theme. This comes with several limitations, including the difficulty to cut the tree line on a photo. Sure, we could print the sky too, but we have had not stellar results in Charlevoix due to humidity affecting the paper. Also, it's quite hard to install full length backdrops. Another issue is that leafless trees are the greatest thing to hide seams, gaps, building junctions with backdrop, etc. Vegetation is great to hide what should be hidden. Don't get me wrong, I like the leafless season, but something must be done.

A quick grass test near Villenuve

First, Clermont is north of Quebec City, in the mountains. Spring starts later there, maybe one week or two. It would mean that if leaves start to appear in Clermont, then they would be fully there in Quebec City. Certainly, they would have a tender green to them, but there would be leaves.

We think it would be easier to shoot adequate pictures in that time of the year, making our life easier. Meanwhile, we could wait until next spring to take pictures and start the scenery right now, leaving a small gap to insert the photobackdrop later. We did the same in Clermont and it worked well.

This backdrop issue aside, our biggest challenge will be to complete the structures. The large cement plant will need to be enlarged at the back. It will be fully modelled. The bagging plant is almost ready to receive its cladding and details and several ancillary buildings could be done rather quickly. As for cladding, I now have a very hard time finding HO scale suitable corrugated cardboard to imitate asbestos panels. From now on, I think I will simply 3D print them according to my needs. It will be more cost efficient and prototypical that way.

I'm really looking forward to start modelling again.

Highball! A new season arrive...

On a positive note, Jérôme was able to revive our duo of GP-15s. Better sounds and keep alives have now made them very reliable locomotives, so all the frustrations associated with poor performance are gone... at least for now!