Reclaiming my Layout Room for the Holidays

First off, Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Belated Hanukkah, whatever you celebrate if you do, I hope you find a way to make the best of it given all that 2020 has thrown at us. I am using up some days off that I need to use before the end of the year, and as I write this on Christmas eve, yesterday was my first day off for a Christmas break until January. As such, first up was to reclaim my layout room/workshop from also being my home office, and banish anything that has been there since mid-March making it my office for my employer as well, and even on day one it made a huge difference. Instead of being in the layout room from 8am having to ignore my models, I meandered in around noon and looked about to choose projects to work on. Talking with my friend Trevor Marshall of late, I realized I have made a lot of progress in 2020, but I want to focus myself on “finishing” the eastern half of the layout from the peninsula into CPR staging in the closet. I am not going to set a specific time target, more of an overarching “is there a project I can work on to advance this end of the layout” plan. If the answer is no, then off I go with something else, but If i can work on things that move that end forward, that I will do.

So, with all that said, I picked out two projects to work on. Making my first telephone poles, and laying the first static grass on the layout. I’ve been practising and learning to use Static Grass, so I decided it was time to actually apply some to the one large grassy area, the prison yard for the Mercer Reformatory woman’s prison! The sad part is, most of the grass is hidden behind the security fence, so you don’t really get to see it, though it will hopefully show in photographs from a slightly higher angle. None the less, laying the static grass in the yard, has brought that area very close to finished. It needs some work around the two trees recovered from Trevor’s layout, to blend the roots in, but the static grass has brought the appearance of the area and around the fence looking much more finished.

Getting set and laying static grass on the Mercer Reformatory prison yard.

For the yard, I removed the trees and fence, and filled the holes with toothpicks so I could find them again, and keep them free of grass and glue. As you can see from the pictures above, I laid green painters tape to help keep grass and glue from getting on the track and roads where I didn’t want it at the moment. I have recently stained the green painted fence with an alcohol and ink mix to tone it down and dirty it up. Nothing earth shattering in the work, or techniques, just good solid actually getting things done.

The finished area, before the green tape was pulled and with the tape removed.

Moving on from static grass, I have had the telephone poles in place for a while, but hadn’t moved on with them. Because on my layout, these are not railway telegraph poles, but city hydro (electricity) and streetlights, I am scratch building them so they match the poles from archives photographs, and at least give me the option to install working lights. My inspiration for the how is from Australian modeller Luke Towan’s Boulder Creek Blog. I am making modifications to his technique that he shares at the link, but I am absolutely 100% using his technique as the basis for coming up with how I am going to build mine. He kindly shares his 3D print designs for components, though this is one of the big areas I am making a change. When my friend Trevor moved, he gave me a giant box of HO Scale stuff, included in it was a set of Rix products telephone poles. The poles are useless, but the cross arms were perfect to cut down to size and modified. I am likely at some point going to get a couple of the pole mount transformers Luke shares printed, as I’ve been struggling to find any available from existing manufacturers (they exist, just not in stock anywhere!). The poles in Liberty Village as seen in archives pictures had arms on both sides, connected by wooden supports, creating a box like look for the arms. To make them consistent, I made a jig using some scrap styrene to set the arms, and let me glue them to the styrene tube poles. The poles are hollow for wiring, the outsides have been scraped with a razor saw so that when painted they will look like wooden poles. We shall see as they say how my painting technique goes!

Building a jig to connect Rix telephone arms to evergreen styrene hydro poles, and cutting down the arms on my NWSL Chopper.

I still need to make a final decision on if I am going to light the streetlights or not, as that determines how I 3D print the Toronto Acorn streetlights (previously used on my Bar Volo Diorama), as Shapeways no longer prints the clear material I used several years ago. I have friends with resin printers, who may be able to print me clear globes and non-translucent fixtures, we shall see, or if I decide not to light them, I can adjust and have them printed as just detail parts. Thus far, all the work I have done with the poles and their mounts in the layout allows for me to wire them and light them, but I can walk back from that if needed. For now, I’ve build 8 poles, and have an order for a package of the Rix cross arms pending to finish the other 10 poles on the layout. It was a nice easy project. I will get the rest of the strip wood pieces I need cut for the braces while I wait, but doing the rest of the poles will be a nice evening project sometime once I have the parts, then I can move on to painting them.

The first test pole assembled, and on the layout, setting up to build the 8 I have enough cross arms for, and the first three in place to see how they look.

All in all, a good day in the layout room, and it was nice to feel positive working in my layout space. On we go with more little projects here through the holidays!

2 thoughts on “Reclaiming my Layout Room for the Holidays

  1. Nice post. I’m glad I could donate some unneeded pieces and that you’re able to put them to good use. Your layout is developing a wonderful, unique visual language – not many modellers have invested time and talent to create sewer grates, maintenance hole covers, double cross arm utility poles, acorn street lamps, and so on. I am enjoying watching the city come to life and am so pleased you’ve made such progress this year: keep at it!

    • Thank you Trevor, both for the compliments on my layout and the bits and pieces. You never know where inspiration or a solution is going to come from! Without those Rix cross arms showing up in the fall when you gave me that box, it could have been ages before I had the materials and was in the mood to build the poles. Having them gave me a path to get it done, where I can now move on to the harder decisions about lighting/etc, but where the layout looks that little bit better with the poles being more than just white styrene sticking out of the benchwork!

      Stephen

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