Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Photo Backdrop Hung

 Well, I spent Memorial weekend gathering material and then practicing how to hang that photo mural you saw earlier. Dave at Backdrop Junction was kind enough to work with me and sent me a practice sheet to fool with. I cut the sky off the mural and taped it up to see how it would look.
 I was quite impressed as the blue of the sky on the backdrop integrated nicely with blue on the wall.  The trees fairly jumped out at you when they contrasted with the wall. I thought it looked really good so that cemented my approach to hanging the mural.

 Here you can see how nice it looks and how the seam between the photo and the wall disappears when it is on the tree line. You can see a little difference in the blue behind the tree at the far left  but I think that will disappear when the whole scene is finished.
 So, I set up two tables to lay out the mural sections which are about 7 feet long. I then used a cutting board and a very sharp knife to cut the boarder.
 I tried to cut the border at an edge to hide the white of the vinyl at the cut line. I then had to trim the vertical edge to match the previous sheet.
 I cut notches into the white lower border so I could line up the photo with a string line that I would put on the wall on my horizon line which was about 2 inches above the track. That worked out pretty well. I left the border as I will be putting plaster up to the photo and will hang the webbing that supports it on the white border.
 The right lower corner had to be removed o clear some existing scenery. I used that piece to hang on the wall with the paste I purchased for vinyl border paper. I wanted to test it to see that it would sty on and resist the water wiping that I did to clean up the glue afterwards.
 Here is Mike wiping the main sheet with that water as we clean up surplus paste after hanging the first piece. Given that all the cutting was done, we had a very good session last night putting it all up.,
 Here is that first piece in place. We took a break to step back and look at what we had done. Looks good. You can see my test piece on the wall below the middle of the mural  - just past the end of the ruler.
 Here Paul and Mike putting up more paste. Paul had just put his section of paste on and Mike is finishing it ip. You can make out the string line in the photo just at the bottom of the previous mural section.
 A longer view shows the paste up better. The paste was a slight pink color so you could see where you had painted it on easier - making it harder to miss a spot.
 Second section in now up and the scene is taking shape.
 The joint looks pretty good - you can see where it is by the different heights of the white border. You can also see my notches in the lower border to check the level.
 The third sheet is now up and I had a little problem with the seam as you can see the vertical white line. I have to touch that up along with a couple of other nicks. They will disappear, I am sure, given the size of the mural and foreground that will go in.
 Last section now in.
Total time to install was about an hour with the three of us. It is about 20 feet long and really adds depth to the room. I need to find more places to use this material.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Piercing the backdrop - our first actual tunnel portal

 Well, when the main line leaves Herndon, it has to pierce the backdrop to go over towards the main yard and the Susquehanna River. So, I have an old home made PRR style tunnel portal that was on the Middle Division. I also have the mold for this portal which was cast in molding plaster. This one was removed from an old friend's layout - Doug Jones. It was up for many years and even sustained a broken leg which I fixed.
 I had to add a base which I did by placing a bridging piece of plywood under the main line as the portal is high and is meant to go down to grade. You can see the piece I used which was about 13 by 4 inches. One of the next steps is to fabricate a liner which will not have to curve as you cannot see the top from a normal viewing angle. Then I have to paint the track before installing everything as it would be difficult to do that later.
This is an overview of the area. A low hill will surround the portal and incorporate the base of the tower as the track flows into Herdon on the right. I have set the fascia height on the left to reflect this.

More on the two bridge crossing - Nuts and bolts

 The next step on  building the bridges was to complete the deck - track, guard rails, and guard timbers. Well, when the railroads added wood guard timbers, they lag bolted them to the cross ties. So, we have to also. This means drilling hundreds of holes and adding castings to simulate them.
 So, here we are drilling our holes and adding the castings. I quickly realized I had to paint them before putting them in. The grey is the plastic color.
 Here are my castings after removal from the sprue
 Here is my set up - strong coffee is essential. I originally thought I should use a straight edge to keep the bolts in a standard staggered pattern but that soon proved impractical. I could stagger them by eye. I needed the curved tweezers to hold each bolt and place it into the drilled hole before I drove it home.
 Looking back on progress. The two bolts close together at in the ends of adjacent timbers.
 So, now I painted those bolts a rusty color. I had to place about 700 bolts. My eyes crossed as I thought about it!
 Now the painted bolts are going in. After a couple of long afternoons, we were done.
 Next is the guard rail, which I learned I had to paint before placing them on the ties. I had code 125 running rails so I used code 100 for the guard rails. That way I can clean the track and not affect the rusty color of the guard rails. Plus, it was prototypical to have lighter guard rails. My rail section was 6 feet long - I have obtained those lengths from Trackside and I find them better than 3 foot lengths, particularly for laying curves. So, I did not need joiners on the bridge which is 56 inches long.
 Okay, guard rail number one is in. I used the NMRA gauge to space the rails and only spiced every fourth tie.
 Guard rail number two in and openings bent to gather derailed wheels. I will place the joiners about 3 inches before the entrance to the bridge to minimize height variation problems.
Completed deck. Now I have to build the deck girder to carry the last 16 inches of the bridge.

Beginning land forms

 I am going to start building the plaster hills behind the branch line rising to Reed. I need to get all that done before placing the bridge for easier access to the area. So, the first thing I do is nail some Masonite outlines of the hill tops to the wall so I do not glue the cardboard webbing to the sheetrock. This is an overview looking to the west, or back towards Northumberland.
 Here is a view from the previous photo area towards the East and Reed. You can see that the hills do not rise above Reed as it was out in a valley.
 This is a back corner where I will use a hill to disguise the wall corner. The main line is sinking behind the branch so we will have the hill come down to meet it.
 This is a more direct view from the aisle by Reed. It gives a better perspective on how I wanted the hill to rise gradually as the main line was dropping down and I did not want to overshadow it.
 A side view
And a final view showing the variation. You also see the oblique angle that the tracks cross at.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

New Rolling Stock

 Well, we had some new additions to our rolling stock this week with some cars painted by Lee Turner - a true artist. This is a container car that is on a PRR FM flat car. It is from the 1930's but we can use artistic license to operate it with more contemporary equipment.
 We also have a flat car with an older bulldozer from Navy surplus going to a customer after an auction of surplus government equipment. You can almost see the Seabees clustering around it!
 The bulldozer is from a kit I had purchased some years ago to use as a flat car load but I had no idea it was as old a prototype as it was. When I asked Lee to build and paint it as a load, he realized it was from 1937 so would not have been a new shipment in my era, so came up with the idea of a surplus equipment sale. He even put gallon cans over the exhausts to show it was well cared for in storage!
Building the kit was the hardest part of the commission. I must have had it for 30 years!
So, they will look terrific in another merchandise train. Now to check the drawers for more old kits. Lee complains that I give him the hardest cars to do - as he struggled with five FM flat cars using the Car Works decals which were white on white backgrounds. He figured out my strategy!

Photo Backdrop

 Well, sometimes we make progress in big steps! I have been working since last summer to come up with a photo back drop for Crowl on he branch. It has stopped scenery work while I tried to come up with something. I had a very talented neighbor who worked on s series of photos that I took in New Jersey. When he ran into difficulty, a good friend who used Photoshop all the time with terrific results volunteered to help me prepare a file I could use for printing the mural. He developed a wonderful picture but then the printer had problems with it. This was after my friends had devoted a lot of time to the project!  I continued to work with the printer and we finally got something I was looking for.
 Crowl is in an area of rolling farm country in central PA. Corn fields stretch out with low hills and forests. So, that was what I was looking for. I found something like that in New Jersey could not capture it well, which left my friends with a problem. The mural is from pictures in Pennsylvania that has the look. It is 20 feet long on the wall. I will have to trim the white borders off when it is put up with wall paper paste.
 It is just held up now with painters tape. I plan to remove some of the sky portion to help blend it better with my blue sky. I will haze it at the seam. There will be a rising plaster terrain that goes higher than the bottom of the picture and then drops down as it meets the wall. I will place trees on this so buffer the lower seam.
 So, you will see the structures in the foreground, then vegetation and then the picture. You can see it has a nice haze to indicate distance.
 I wanted to end with a hill to blend into the turn in the wall.
I think we will be able to make that work. I will paint on the backdrop around the corner which will also be disguised with trees.
 The work crew gave it four thumbs up so it should look good when done. More views of that later.

Model Building continues

 While working on the bridge, I had to finish some tenders that  have languished for years. I owed a friend a finished tender after he provided parts for two of them, Class 70f70 tenders, used behind some PRR 2-8-0's. I also had a class 80F80 that he provided that needed a frame and tail beam. So, I spent about a month of free time getting them done. I had built the bodies about 2 years ago and now had to get them done by May. Nothing like a deadline to focus your efforts. So, here is the rear of the 80F80, sporting its class plate and new tail beam and frame. The tender was made in Japan for a failed project in about 1985. The tarnish shows that age.
 I made up the trucks from casting I had made from a master I had found. The sides are photoetched brass.
 The top deck needed some repair work and I have to add a headlight and platform to complete it. I may extend the coal boards as well.
 The front deck of the tender is made for a Crawford stoker that was on the H10 class of locomotive.
 Last view where I had to move some underbody detail.
 Now for the big job. On this one, a 70F70, all I had was a bag of parts for the two tenders. I used the previous tender as a master, to see what the Japanese builder had in mind when he made the parts. I had to use a torch, a resistance soldering unit, two size irons including a big 80 watt one, and a soldering gun. Parts had to be made on the lathe and I had to make some jigs to hold everything together, especially the tail beam assembly which was made from about 20 parts! It took a lot of celaning as I went along as the tarnish inhibited any soldering efforts.
 I had to fabricate some parts, like the ladder and the piping, grabs, etc. The class plate came from Ted Stepek. The ladder was very interesting and I am happy I can now do that for some other projects. This took me about 2 months to get to work right. Frank Miller and Jim Mucka gave a lot of technical advice in this area.
 I plan to use it behind an H-9 and am happy how it looks.
 The firing deck lines up well so it looks natural.
 Top looks good. I shortened the coal compartment and may raise the coal boards as per later practice.
 Other side view with the etched sides. Trucks are my castings.
 Firing deck view. The water scoop control is the best representation I have seen.
 Another top view
I just love my ladder! Look forward to having it on the layout.