Tuesday Train #42



Essex Terminal Railway No.9 crossing Laurel Creek in Waterloo Park in 2003.  When this picture was taken, ETR No.9 was a visitor here for Oktoberfest and was resident in St. Thomas.  Since then, the Southern Ontario Locomotive Restoration Society has moved to St. Jacobs, north of Waterloo where they operate the Waterloo Central Railway tourist operation.  This bridge is now gone as i understand it, and replaced with a new one for the ION Light Rail which runs on this part of the right of way.

I chose this image for today, as the Waterloo Central will be running ETR No.9 this coming Family Day Long weekend.  Visit their website for tickets and more information: http://waterloocentralrailway.com/

Trees Part Three

Onwards and upwards as the saying goes.  This is part three on my first attempt at making my own trees.  You can catch up on the adventure here and here if you haven’t seen the first to parts of this tale.

So I did wind up going out on Saturday and buying a darker shade of leaf material for my trees, as can be seen below, the first leaf material to add volume and appearance to the foliage base was far too light.  I spent a lot of time debating if I could live with it, or come up with some other technique to tone it down, and the answer was a straight up no.  Get the right colour, and do it right.

imgp6116rawconvLeaf Material 1.0.  Scenic Express SuperLeaf Light Green was just too neon for the Woodland Scenics foliage base canopy.

So, tonight, I was back at it.  What better way to avoid the TV in the livingroom alternating between the Grammy’s and the Westminster Dog Show (which is on FoxSportsRacing, what’s up with that?  I get that channel to watch the World Endurance Championship/LeMans/IMSA Sportscar Racing, but now it has the Dog Show???) than to make trees?  Fortunately, I did learn a few things about the hairspray technique with the neon trees and my work earlier in the week, mostly in that I was applying too much spray and it was leaving an aftersheen.

imgp6216rawconvThe darker material, the tree on the left is just the foliage, on the right has had leafs applied.  It’s hard to see in the photo, but very visible to the naked eye, and the tree on the right definitely isn’t neon green!  The new colour is called “Spring Green”, and has a much more natural blend with the darker foliage forming the base of the canopy.

Apply a decent coating of hairspray first, then shake on the leaf material, then a very gentle application on top of the leafs to secure them.  After a few minutes, I gave the trees a shake to see where material fell off, and if there were any unsightly holes.  Then, re-apply hairspray and leaf material to touch up those areas carefully.  The end result, after doing the four trees with no scatter, and re-covering over the two with neon leaves, are six, reasonably presentable trees,.

imgp6217rawconvA small forest of trees almost ready for planting.  only the tree on the left is missing the leaf scatter material to make it look more realistic.  The tools of this project, a piece of foam stolen from a construction site, a dollar store plastic tub to shake material over and recover exess, hairspray, and leaf scatter material.

With the trees looking the part to my eye, it was on to planting them in the diorama.  For now, they are semi-permanently applied using Woodland Scenics Scenic Glue.  This is meant for putting figures on layouts as it dries clear and allows you to gently remove figures to re-position them.  For my purposes, it will hold the trees in place through the show next weekend, and let me decide if I am happy when I see them in different lighting conditions, or if more work is needed.  I don’t want to permanently affix them and finish the landscaping scenery to blend them into the ground until I am certain I am not going to apply any more leaf material.

Railway Village Diorama with trees temporarily planted and glued into place for next weekend’s Barrie-Allandale Train Show.

I’m really glad to be able to say that I finally got around to finishing my first attempt at making trees.  I’m less pleased that it took from July 2015 to February 2017 to do so, but, at the end of the day, I generally don’t put timelines on my modelling. This is supposed to be (and most definitely is for me), a fun and relaxing hobby.  I don’t see me needing to make many trees in the near future, but I definitely know I can now for whenever I start building a layout, or some other small diorama project needs trees.

100 Posts of this Nonsense? Is anyone actually reading this still!!

Round numbers, we celebrate them, not because they really mean anything, but because they are round.  There’s a whole argument in sports about why we pick round numbers.  A player who hits 500 home runs is a sure-fire Baseball Hall of Famer (or at least they were before the Steroid Era made a mess of things).  Fred McGriff at 493 may never get in.  Is he that different from Lou Gehrig at 493, Eddie Murray at 504, or Stan Musial and Willie Stargell at 475 based on Home Runs?  All the others mentioned are in the Hall of Fame and bracket him on the all time list?  But that’s not the point, the point is milestones, we pick things that are round numbers and we celebrate them.  In this case, even accounting for 41 weekly posts that are railfanning photos to force me to do something each week, it still takes a real effort to get to 100 posts.  And lets face it, 100 is a nice round number, and one with lots of history in railroading.

100mph and being the first to hit it or having trains run at that speed for a long time was a huge deal.  Whether you believe that the Great Western Railway’s “City of Truro” hit 102mph on May 9, 1904 hauling the Ocean Mail down Wellington Bank, or whether it was the London & North Eastern Railway’s “Flying Scotsman” whose 104mph was authenticated by a dynamometer car on November 30, 1934, hitting the 100mph mark was a big deal.

City of Truro (left) at Llangollen in 2009, and Flying Scotsman (right) at the National Railway Museum in 2004.  One of them was the first to hit 100mph on the rails.

And, in honour of that big deal of 100, I’m going to sit back and be pleased that I’ve manged to make 100 posts in less than a year.  My previous efforts to write about what I’m doing or was on my mind were colossal failures.  I still feel like I’m finding my voice here and developing a writing style of some sort.  I read some of my posts and wonder what on earth was rolling through my mind when I wrote it, but I’m also finding it incredibly helpful in keeping track of projects, and motivation to keep going.  The thought that there may be someone out there who wants to know what happens next with one of my models when I post about a work in progress is helping me want to keep going and move it forward or get it done so I can post about it for others to see.

Hopefully, if you’re still reading, you are finding some enjoyment or interest in what interests me and I work on, or some help in your modelling in what I am doing or some technique I’ve talked about.

In closing, I’ll even explain why Fred McGriff was my first reference (other than that as I write this its snowing heavily, but Pitchers and Catchers report to spring training this week, a sure sign winter must be ending if baseball season approaches!!)  One of the best birthday presents I ever got, a few days after my actual birthday, on May 14, 1990 I got called into the Vice-Principal’s office at my elementary school, I didn’t think I’d done anything wrong lately, so wasn’t sure why I was in trouble.  He had this big mallet hammer that he flipped in his hand when he was telling students off (see if that would fly today!!).  The good news was, I wasn’t in trouble, I was getting pulled out of school by my dad to take me to Tiger Stadium for a Monday afternoon daytime makeup game of a rainout.  It was my first ever Major League Baseball game live, and we hung around after the game outside by the Jays locker room so I could meet my favourite player, get his autograph, and have him give me a used game ball out of an equipment bag (which I still have on a shelf next to my desk).  I may not have Jonah Keri’s bully pulpit to help get Freddie into the Hall of Fame like he did for Tim Raines (which is fantastic BTW), but this is my happy memory, he made one kids day at his first ball game, and I’ve never forgotten it!

mcgriff1.jpgI keep a lot of stuff, I’ve thrown out a lot of tickets and ephemera and debris to make life in an apartment work recognizing that some things will never be out.  But this photo album from my first ever Blue Jays game is a keeper!! On the left are a picture of Fred McGriff at the plate, and signing an autograph for some kid 😛   On the right, his autograph (and I think John Cerutti’s) along with our tickets. Thanks Dad!!

A Visit to the Model Railroad Club of Toronto

The Model Railroad Club of Toronto was founded in 1938, and from 1946 to 2013 the club occupied a large basement space in a former World War 2 gun factory in the Liberty Village neighbourhood in Toronto.  In 2013, the development boom in Liberty Village finally caught up with their space, however, they were able to find a new location in East York, and save large parts of their layout and re-locate an start re-construction.  While the old layout was amazing, all good things must end, and the move offered an opportunity to start over, modernize, and hopefully engage new generations of modellers and members.  The club holds a few public open houses through the year to let people see the layout, and raise funds.  Today was the first day of five open days in February.  The club’s “Central Ontario Railway” is open again Sunday February 12, Satruday February 18, Sunday February 19 and Monday February 20th 2017 from 11am-5pm each day.  The show flyer with location and admission information is below:


The club itself models in O Scale, 1 inch in the model = 48 inches in the real world.  This is a good large size to allow very detailed models of the equipment and the world around it.  The club makes good use of their 3,000 sq.ft space with tracks on multiple levels looping around and coming in and out of the space.  The large size is also great for kids to see the details, and the members of the club have spent a lot of time burying little details in scenes for kids young and old to find.  With the move, the new layout is still a work in progress, which also means you can see the building and electronic techniques in use.  One of the more interesting features, is a switch to iPad control for the layout, you see the operators with their iPads controlling and handing off trains around the room.

I have linked a full photo gallery from today on my Flickr here.

I have also linked pictures from their former home at Liberty Village here.

Some images from the new layout are below:

Pictures of the new Central Ontario Railway layout under construction during its February 2017 Open Days.  More Photos on Flickr.

Night Two of Trees

Following on yesterday’s post about making my own trees, I was back at it last night to try to complete the six trees and see how they looked.

I definitely learned something on Tuesday night, as the first tree I applied poly-fibre to yesterday looked much more tree-like on the first pass than the ones from Tuesday did.  Less hard edges and clean stops along the bottom of the canopy, and a more natural vertical form rather than looking like circles.  This is a good thing, as the first tree canopy I added on Wednesday is probably the most visible foreground tree in the small cluster located right at the tracks and pretty much fully exposed to viewers from the “front” side of the diorama.

Six Trees behind Don Station. The trees at this point haven’t been hairsprayed or had the wires trimmed back t get them behind the canopy.  This was to see how they looked as a group in place and see if the effect was getting closer to desired.

Once I had the rough shapes done, I placed all six trees back into the diorama so I could massage the canopy and positioning to make sure they all fit, would stand straight up, and looked like the little grouping of trees i am modelling.  The one thing that stood out to me was that the leaf material I have may be too light for the underlying poly-fibre.  The light green colour is probably closer to the real trees, but I’m not sold on it in model form.  I did a second tree with the leaf scatter to see what I thought.  Looking at all six together, I’m still not sold.

End of the night, six trees, two with leaf scatter added.

I am thinking that I need a shade or two darker for the leaves.  Either to add a darker shade to create some tonality in the trees, or to vary with some trees lighter than others.  The two trees I’ve added leaves to are the smallest most immature trees in the grove.  I’m wondering if a darker scatter to create texture but be closer to the base would look better on the bigger trees?  I can see there may be a Saturday trip to my hobby shop to pick up another tub of leaf material to continue the experimentation on how to get the trees to look right.

I also learned an important lesson.  I should have checked what brand of hair spray my wife uses so I could buy a different one.  When I asked her for her opinon on how the trees looked, her first question was “are you using my hairspray?”  I wasn’t, but that was a gotcha moment for my night!!

Making Trees for the Railway Village Diorama

So I’m working on finishing something I started on almost two years ago.  It was July 2015 when I convinced Trevor Marshall to help me learn to make trees, as he makes such beautiful ones on his layout.  He blogged about that night here.  Actually getting down to it and finishing my first attempt at making trees was on my 2017 To Do list.  Following our night together in 2015, I picked up an excellent book on making trees by Gordon Gravett, and got as far as making armatures for the six trees I need to complete for the Railway Village Diorama.

A barren looking grove of trees behind Don Station on my diorama of the Toronto Railway Museum’s “Railway Village”.

Then, through a combination of factors, I stalled, and stalled badly.  Every time I’d look at the trees, I couldn’t bring myself to take the next step of applying poly-fibre foliage as a base, and then adding leaf material to fill in and give texture to the tree.  It’s not like it is something that I can’t re-do if I mess it up and I hate how it looks, the only thing wasted is a few dollars of poly-fibre and leaf material and some hair spray. It was paralysis by analysis at its finest with me over-thinking the next steps and effectively psyching myself out of getting any progress made.

So, last night I gathered up all the tree materials, and started pulling bare armatures out of the diorama and adding clumps of poly-fibre and experimenting with how to pull and work the material to look like tree canopy over the armatures.  The cluster of trees I am modelling are birches that have tall clean trunks before you hit the canopy, and the actual trees can be pretty sparse looking in the canopy department at the best of times.  My trees will almost certainly have a denser canopy, and being a large feature of a small diorama, I want them to look as realistic as possible.

IMGP6157.JPGThe somewhat scraggly cluster of trees between Don Station and Cabin D in Roundhouse Park.

I have read for years how modellers use cheap hairspray as a fixative (glue) when making trees and doing scenery.  I had never done that before last night.  Its amazing, but its true, cheap hair spray does work like a glue on this material.  I never really believed it until I tried it for myself!

imgp6114rawconvFirst three trees part way through adding poly-fibre.  The two on the left are looking ok, whereas the one on the right is looking pretty sickly.

I made the armatures for the trees long before i decided to start blogging, but basically, they are green florists wire, several pieces wound together to form a trunk, and then split out at the top in individual strands to form a canopy, and in bunches at the bottom to form roots spreading out and a pin to insert them into the ground.  The armatures are then covered in flexible modelling paste (I used Liquitex).  The paste can be applied as is which is white, or tinted with artists acrylic paints.  I tinted mine greyish.  The armatures where then painted in sorts using a variety of artists markers to accent and highlight the greys and browns of the trunks of the real trees.

imgp6116rawconvTree #1 with leaf scatter added.  Its getting there.  And I’m still happier to be planting trees I made rather than trees I bought.

Once the canopy material is secured with hairspray, the technique is to apply another dose of spray, and then apply leaf material to both vary the colour of the tree, and in theory, make it look a bit more realistic with individual leaves.  I had bought Scenic Express SuperLeaf material for this.  The tree above shows my first attempt at doing this.  I don’t think I quite got it right, but it doesn’t look terrible to my eye, and perhaps more importantly, it looks passable when plunked down into the diorama as in the image below.  I don’t think I’m going to win any awards for my tree making anytime soon, but we all have to start somewhere!

imgp6118rawconvOne Tree Planted.  Or at least, test planted back into its hole before gluing into place.  Of the four trees I started last night, this one is the most realistic looking canopy.  You can just see my highly scientific tree numbering/planting plan in the back to make sure I put them back where they are supposed to go!

At this point, I ran out of poly-fibre.  Fortunately, I had a meeting for work near a hobby shop today, and was able to pick up another bag, so I can go back to try to fix the canopies on the three semi-finished trees, and get a base on the two bare trees in the picture above tonight.  I’m not going to pass judgment on my first attempt at tree making until all six trees are done and re-planted and I see the overall look.  Then I can try to adjust the trees, or rip them out and start over, but at least I have tried, and I definitely learned some things last night that will hopefully make the next two trees go a bit smoother tonight.

So, the big question, why did I finally get the motivation to do this now?  I will be at the Barrie-Allandale Train Show on February 18-19, 2017 with the Toronto Railway Museum, and I wanted the diorama to be more complete than when I showed it last year with the barren looking trees.  Getting the trees done also lets me basically say this project is complete, which means I can try to sneak it out of the office and into another part of the apartment to free up some workspace for other projects I’d like to start that need some real estate!!