Another Mini Diorama

So, I teased in a couple of posts (here & here) that I am building another stand alone diorama, I’m not going to tell you what it is, but I am going to show a bit of detail. It is another 12×12 project panel model of a specific real world building, much like the Diorama of Bar Volo’s original location I built several years ago. It will have two buildings, one of them is the focus, the second which you’ve seen is background. It will have lights and some other things to make it hopefully, a dynamic feeling mini-scene.

My chosen road material, Lepage Thick Hole Repair drywall compound, tinted with grey acryllic paint so if it gets dented in the future it isn’t gleaming white.

I have started as I do with these small project, a lot of time collecting parts and supplies and doing small side projects that become a part of the bigger whole when assembled. The past couple of weeks these smaller projects are hitting my motivation sweet spot, as I am not doing a lot of new things, but using skills I am pretty comfortable with to putter and visualize and test assemble and look to see how things are going to work. This makes it a good project for work days. When I need my 15 minute breaks in the morning or the afternoon, I can quickly turn to the bench and feel I’ve accomplished something. This is one of the problems I am having with my current main layout project of the never ending windows of Hinde & Dauch paper, I need to be in the right mindset, and have time. A rushed effort in a work break to cut out some windows will inevitably lead to a mistake, and swearing, and trains are stupid… and its summer time, I don’t want to be grumpy with my hobby, I want to enjoy it!!

Scratch Built Traffic Signal

I posted earlier this week about a new side project in discussing brass fire escapes for a building. It does tie to the layout in some skill-building as I will need fire escapes for one building on the layout, and learning to solder brass is a useful modelling skill.

This post, is another related to the diorama, but where the skills being used can be applied to my layout. I don’t have traffic signals on the layout, but I do want to have working streetlights, and there are something like a dozen of my hydro poles that will have street light arms added. Figuring out how to make the lights work is important. For my previous Bar Volo model, I drew up the Toronto Style “Acorn” lamp heads, but they were a bit oversized, and Shapeways does not print the translucent material anymore. I am at some point going to at least get some static versions printed so I can “finish” the hydro poles on the layout, as long as I am smart about how I add the arms, revisiting them to add working lights later is something I can do at some future date, but for now, on with what I was doing this past week, making a traffic light.

Scratch built light standard using K&S Aluminum tubes, some Tichy Phosphor Bronze wire, and the D5 DEM Modelsmiths LED Traffic Light.

For this diorama, I need a single traffic light, in a very specific style of design for the location of the building being modelled. I spent a lot of time searching online, and then, found on Etsy of all places, Modelsmiths Designs. They have a stand alone website too. When I first found them, neither site offered shipping to Canada, which is something I find too often that places won’t ship here, or ask exorbitant rates. Fortunately, the owner was very friendly when I contacted them, and looked into it with their shipping services, and was able to add affordable shipping to Canada, so I ordered two hanging 3 light traffic signals. They sell a range of traffic signals, streetlights, railroad signals and other details in HO, O and S Scales. They also sell electronic controllers for them. I didn’t buy a controller, as I expect I will just static wire the light to a single colour for the diorama, but as I build who knows, I think I have a three way switch somewhere that I could wire in to manually change the light aspect. My initial response to testing the lights now months after I bought them, and fishing the wires through the tubes, is that I am very very happy with them, and hopefully down the road I will have use for other of their projects, I like to support people who make good products, and who go out of their way to be fair in shipping to Canada, as its much easier as a small producer to just saw “naw, the effort for a handful of sales isn’t worth it.”

In terms of construction, I had some different gauges of K&S Metals Aluminum Tube kicking around. I thought about using styrene tube initially, but I think the aluminum does two things, it bends a bit better for the extension arm, and is a little bit stronger for long term handling. I was able to find the specification drawing for the light online, so I had rough dimensions to make sure I built it roughly to scale (as close as my eyesight allows, and I don’t tend to get too worked up about an inch here or there on scale dimensions!).

Working Streetlights. Red, yellow and green LED’s in the lamp housing.

I have some cleanup work to do, and filling in the open ends of tubes, but once I am happy with it, and have fabricated a base, it will be off to the paintshop to provide a cleanish look for the pole and hide the different materials. All in all, a good quick project to get the core work done and see if what I thought actually worked in terms of how to realize this part of the project.

Quick General Scenery Update

Haven’t been working much on the layout the past few weeks as May has rolled into June. I’ve been “working” on a batch of seven box cars, six are now painted and ready for decals, but other than a post when they are done as a point of pride in completing a bunch of resin kits, they haven’t made for interesting projects to write above. The weather has gotten nice outside as Spring has finally arrived in Toronto (and summers Humidity has not), work has been busy, and staying in the layout room to work on it after the day job work ends has been less attractive. That said, a couple of weeks ago we had a rainy weekend day where I wasn’t feeling like watching TV, and I wanted to both move the scenery on one side of the layout that is nearing completion forward, and make some steps on the other end where I have recently been working on buildings and paving/scenery to keep it moving forward.

The first fence I wanted to do was a wood board fence, I’ve built plenty before, but in doing this one, I used up pretty much all the scale lumber in the right sizes I had. Time for an order of supplies to start being put together. To build the fence, after I cut everything, I dyed it a variety of stain colours to create the appearance of different ages of boards. Once they were all dry, I pre-built the sections on the desk, drilled holes in the layout, and test fitted as you can see below. I am quite happy with the look of the fence. I need to paint and finish the gate you can see in the pictures, but that’s an easy task. Now that I’ve finally got a fence here, I can sort out finishing scenery in the Brunswick Balke Collender yard.

A “quick” wooden fence in progress, counting out if enough boards have been cut, and the finished project.

The second area, I wanted a chain link fence with a big gate across the siding as this is an industry that received tank cars, so that seemed like it would be appropriate detail for it to be fenced off. I have written in the past about my home made chain link fence, so I won’t go into all the details here. I have only half finished it, I haven’t gotten out the tulle to add the mesh, but I have the gates and pieces I need to finish it, which I need to do sometime even though gluing the tulle to the brass frame inevitably means gluing my fingers to it with the CA! Once I get this bit of fence done though, a quick trip to the paint booth, and the gate for the wood fence above and this fence will be done, and I can blend the scenery around the fence.

Making some short sections of chain link and the gates for an area where tank cars are unloaded.

It is as always, nice to see things go from my minds eye to reality, every time I do this, and I know I’ve said it before, seeing things come to life helps me to get/stay motivated to work on other parts of the layout. Always keep making progress, even when its small!

Constant Steady Progress on Buildings

Slow and steady wins the race as they say. I haven’t done anything crazy or particularly revolutionary, just slowly making progress when time permits on scenery and buildings. It is however, immensely satisfying to see things come together, every bit of scenery or layer of paint or pan pastel moves the layout forward, and brings it ever closer to a state where it looks decent in photographs.

Slowly but surely a building emerges. From no paint and no paving, to paint, windows and then the windows fogged from behind. Now to blend the scenery and build a fence and gate!

My latest progress has been on a curved portion of a building on the west end near Mowat. I used this building as my test mule for the Cricut in cutting wall cores and making vinyl window transfers, so I was motivated to actually get it along to the point of being ready to assemble and start to see how it looks as the different parts come together. It is now together and on the layout. I think it will need some more work with pan pastels to build layers of grime and colour on the bricks, but over the course of the weekend its gone from primer to a nearly complete building. I need to spend some time blending scenery around the edges of the styrene pavement, but once that is done, this end of the layout will really start to come alive. I have also decided that the spur where the tank car is parked should be fenced off and have a gate, so I’ll need to break out my fence making jigs again and make some more home brewed chain link.

What a difference some paint makes. Threw a mix of a bunch of brown-ish paints together and threw some paint at the parts of Hinde & Dauch that were ready for it. Let that cure for a while, the mask and paint the window frames.

On the other end of the layout, I am slowly making progress on Hinde & Dauch. I haven’t cut out any more windows in the largest part of the building lately, but I did throw some paint at the other two portions, just for the motivation of seeing the building start to come alive, instead of being grey primer. It is a hugely satisfying and motivating result of half an hours work mixing up a brown paint from 3 or 4 shades and spraying, to then see it look like a building. I will need to let this cure for a bit, then mask and paint the windows and doors, but it is a relatively low effort high reward task to have gotten some paint on it.

Finally Hiding the last of the Foam

A milestone of sorts is basically upon me, the last of the layer of pink insulation foam my layout scenery is built out of is almost gone. I have laid the last base coat of ground cover dirt, and the last bits of hard cover paved area that I am making out of styrene are cut and ready to paint. I have been focusing on the large Hinde and Dauch Paper building and box car kits in terms of layout work the past few weeks, but this past few days the mood struck me to finish something else that I have been working towards, hiding the foam.

Working my way through the last large area of soil to be laid. Between the buildings along the wall will be paved, and a building hides the two tracks.

This is one of those things that could have been done months ago, if I’d wanted to just get on with it, but as with so many of my projects, I have a lot of things on the go as my attention wanders.

The last corner of dirt goes down, and preparing the final styrene concrete and sidewalk parts for painting and installation.

Hopefully in the next few days I can get the paved areas painted and installed, and start working on touch-ups to the base scenery and start thinking about the first passes with some detail scenery using static grass and other soils/dirt’s as appropriate to build texture and colour. As with everything, the end of one project brings others in building a layout, and as my own worst critic sometimes, far too often I see the areas where I need to do work or fix things vs. appreciating what I have done, but for now, I’m just going to sit back (well, stand up given the height of my benchwork), and appreciate the fact that wherever I look on the layout, the last vestiges of unsceniced foam have all vanished!

Recovering from a Scenery Fail

Well, another day, another shot at my scenery. After my Friday failure with the glue not soaking through and creating a crust surface, I ripped out the worst affected areas where I could get a finger in and pull away the soil base scenic material, and tried again.

Three areas where the glue did not work, I was able to literally pull the scenery up in chunks with my fingers once I got into the cracks, not good.

I spent a half hour on Saturday looking at the places I had put down scenery on Friday, about 1/3 of it I was able to peel right away with just my fingers once it started to come up, revealing unglued soil below. These were admittedly thick layers, but not the thickest I’ve done. There were a couple of differences in my technique looking back. In the past, when I’ve applied large layers, they were often on top of a coat of latex house paint to give some ground colour to the foam beneath. This also helped adhere the bottom layer of soil to the ground, and when wetted from above, the paint thins and eventually wicks up while the glue wicks down.

Attempt number two, a good clean and service on my sprayer bottle for water to pre-wet the soil for the thinned glue to be applied, and immediately more obvious that the glue was soaking in rather than sitting on the surface.

I have to admit, I am also guilty of recently having used my water spray bottle with some super thinned glue in it as well. On inspection, I was not getting a good spray as the nozzle was definitely a little bit gooped up. It looked like I was getting a good spray, but I think I was almost certainly only wetting the top of the soil, and it wasn’t soaking all the way through to help the thinned glue flow in when it is applied.

My second go around on Saturday, a lot more water was used to get the area wet, and the glue discernibly soaked in immediately rather than pooling on the surface.

Sunday morning, looking much better. A couple of very small cracks, but it is holding unlike Saturday morning where it pulled right up. I can work with this.

All these areas will need a second top coat. As you can see from the pictures, there are areas paved with styrene that are still sitting proud of the ground level. Another thin level of dirt that hopefully adheres better to blend the ground together once the styrene pavement is actually glued down, and hopefully these areas will be ready for more “finish” scenery with some static grass and weeds and such. Live an learn, I probably should have recognized that the glue wasn’t seeping in properly, but at least it’s a recoverable mistake.