May 31, 2010

Aquia Landing Backdrop

Before going with the computer printed backdrop, I thought I would take a crack at hand painting it. If this didn't work out, then I could go to the computer backdrop. Sticking with hand painting means the whole layout would have a unified look, which may be a good thing.

Here are some in progress shots.


I am pleased with how it is turning out so far. I like the ability to control the backdrop-modeled terrain junction by hand painting.

My clouds are not as good as computer printed ones, but they do add a sense of depth.







At the left is the in-progress view as you walk into the workshop where Aquia Landing is located.


I painted the far shore a bit closer than it should be on the north end, but it vanishes off in the distance as it goes south. The Potomac is 3 miles wide at Aquia Landing, so the distant shore really should only be a thin line.




The boats are cut out from computer prints, then touched up to blend into the scene by adding the rigging, smoke, reflections and other details as needed.

Controlling the perspective with cut-out boats is not as easy as when laying it out as one whole image in Photoshop. Once you make the cut-out, you can't rescale it or distort to change the prespective.

I am pleasantly surprised at how the hand painted rigging looks - better than I expected. Not having to trim all the rigging saves a lot of painstaking work.

I have been using smaller boats than I had originally designed. I may add some larger ones next.

May 28, 2010

Work Session May 27, 2010



Stormy, hot and muggy 90+ degree weather could not suppress the track gangs as we had another successful work session. Paul Dolkos, John Drye, Doug Gurin, Mark Anderson and newcomer Joel Salmons participated.

After a simple dinner of greek salad and pizza we had a brief show and tell as Joel showed us his N Scale ACW engine and freight cars. Here they are posed on a 28 ft flat car.

"So where do you want the toy train delivered, sir?"

We hooked up a power pack to a section of my former N Scale Tennessee Pass layout and test ran the engines. It ran a little bit better than my version of of the original Bachman 4-4-0, but still a bit dicey. Note Brian's Marshall House Print on the wall.

Joel wants to try making some N Scale wood beam trucks and he will enlist his son's help to do the art work. We'll try to cut them on the laser if it can be made to work.











Meantime, Paul laid track at the far end of Brook.










JD started gluing in cardboard formers to the terrain on the north side of Potomac Creek. Joel helped cut the cardboard strips.

Doug continued spiking rail at Stonemans Station.




Mark installed the fascia at Aquia Harbor.

I glued ties all through the Brook area including the tricky turn out area. With a three day weekend coming up, it's time to get some track down.

All in all a good session. Thanks guys.

May 23, 2010

Harbor Scene Backdrop Artwork

I spent a good part of the weekend working on the artwork for the Aquia Harbor Backdrop Scene. At the left is a greatly reduced version of the file. The actual file is 46,800 pixels wide by 6,300 pixels tall. At 150 pixels/inch that makes a 26 feet long image! This size really brings my iMac to its knees. Saving the file takes about 5 minutes.

The earlier version of the artwork did not have the correct overall dimensions. It also had a scene from Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve on the Potomac as the distant horizon. After visiting the actual Aquia Landing location I realized that the far bank of the river is quite far off and the scene I used was inappropriate. I also had subsequently taken a better sky panorama (more pixels) so I decided to redo the whole image. I also edited and revised several of the ships in the scene while I was at it.

Ken of Afforadble Signs stopped by to offer his advice. He suggested cutting the image into pieces. His sign shop could print it in one long piece, but we decided it would be easier to install if it was in three pieces. The seams will be at the corners. The print will follow three walls of the room. The left wall is 5 feet 5 inches, then a 15 feet long stretch, the another 5 feet 5 inches section.

The sky is a panoramic photo I took last winter of an interesting cloud formation, but fairly typical. The distant horizon is a separate shot of the Maryland shore from Virginia across the Potomac River photographed two winters ago. There are about 27 ships visible in the image. The boats are a combination of Brian's paintings, scanned images from books, colorized images from the actual ACW photos, and computer generated water. The file is so big that many of the Photoshop filters, such as "Distort-Ocean Ripple" will not work. That complicated construction of the image somewhat.

Next step is to print a small test section using the Ken's machine to check colors and clarity. I have been printing a few test shots on paper at home to get sizing and relative colors, but you never know what the colors will look like when we go to the actual printer.

On the benchwork front, Marco got the foam glued down and the fascia pieces cut to width in Aquia Harbor. It's almost ready to lay some track.

May 20, 2010

Aquia Harbor -Benchwork almost done


Marco stopped by tonight to help finish up the benchwork at Aquia Harbor. His time with us is limited as he'll be moving to Pennsylvania to take a new job.

The benchwork is an open grid of 1x2 lumber screwed to the walls and to the top of Ikea Ivar shelving. A one inch layer of pink foam will serve as the ground. The water surface areas are 1/8th inch tempered hardboard.

The corner of the room was not square so we had to cope the
hardboard pieces to match the walls. We took special care to insure that the hardboard was level so that we will be able to pour resin to simulate water.

This shot shows a mock-up of the pier, ships, car ferry and warehouse on the pier. The backdrop will be very important in capturing the busy harbor look as there isn't that much room for ships, especially big ships.





This is the view looking back to the mainland from the pier. The pier will be about 6.5 feet long. It will have two tracks built on pilings and wood decking. There will be three yard tracks on the pink foam with building flats behind along the wall. The yard area is 15 inches deep. There will be a 4 inch fascia along the front edge.

The rest of the layout lies through a hole in the wall to the right of this photo.

Before securing the hardboard pieces and sealing the seams, I need to paint the backdrop. This will be a real test of my painting skills.
I am also thinking about some additional lighting for this room. The corner by the pier is a bit dark. I may install some trak lighting.

May 19, 2010

Potomac Creek Bridge


In revising the presentation I prepared for the Prorail group in order to deliver it to the Northern Virginia Model Railroad club, it occurred to me that I did not have any shots showing the Potomac Creek Bridge in it's nearly completed state.

So here are two shots. Which one do you like better? Vote in the comments below.






The scene is about 80-90 percent done. The river needs to be finished and the vegetation and remanants of the trestle need to be added.




These photos are single exposures using my Canon 5D at f32. Later, when the scene is closer to completion I would like to try some other shots with Helicon Focus.


May 17, 2010

New products coming down the pike

I was able to wrap up some projects this weekend that have been on the back burner. As a result, three new ACW related products should be coming out soon from Alkem Scale Models. First will be the O Scale switch stands. I have the test etches on my layout and they work well. An example is in the photo at the left. The production etchings are under way.

Each switch stand kit will contain one switch stand and 4 variations of switch target. The stand will work for two or three way turnouts.

The photo also shows a simple method I am using for making the bridles. I got the idea from Tim Warris at Fast Tracks. I use an N scale copper clad printed circuit tie as the bridle rod. These are available from Clover House and Fast Tracks. To it I solder two filed down pieces of rail joiner. I make sure the two rails are the proper gauge. Then I file a small break in the copper cladding between the rails to avoid a short. This is the simplest and strongest way I have found to make O Scale turnout bridles. The technique should also work in HO scale, though the N scale tie may be a bit large, but it is strong enough.

For power routing, I plan to use DCC short circuit detectors, so no mechanical linkage is needed. But it is not hard to rig up a mechanical switch under the table if you are not using DCC. My first batch were built this way.

The switch stand is designed to have the proper throw for O scale two or three way turnouts. This eliminates non-prototypical stops or finicky adjustments tabs. With these switch stands and bridles, making prototypically scaled O Scale track for ACW or even narrow gauge layouts is easily in reach. They are built and work just like the real ones.

The second item in production is a set of photo etched detail parts for my freight car kits that are also soon to be released. They include a couple surprises - so stand by.

Finally I have some decals being printed for USMRR freight cars.

I'll post info when they are ready for sale.




May 14, 2010

Building a farm house


While work continues on benchwork, to wit Marco stopped by Thursday to work on Aquia Harbor benchwork, I decided to build a structure.

I planned to install a farm house on the north side of Potomac Run. The photos I have of this area are not very clear as to what exact type of structure was there, but it is clear that several structures existed.

So taking a bit of license, I used the Lydia Liester farm house at Gettysburg as a design. This is probably the most famous farm house in the civil war as it was used as Meade's Headquarters during the battle of Gettysburg.


My model is not an exact copy of Leister house as I used Mt Albert 4 inch clapboard, while the Liester house has random width butt joined siding. The other tricky aspect arose from problems with the plans for the Leister House posted on the HAB/HAER web site. The plans just don't match any of the photos of house in the ACW or now. They are close, but the chimney and basement are in the wrong spots. I can only surmise that the house was either moved or extensively rebuilt.



Other than the clapboard walls, all the rest of the structure is scratch-built.

I laser cut the base pieces, including the walls, foundation and windows. I accidentally swapped the walls when assembling the building, so my chimney is on the same side as the extension for the basement stairwell. The actual house had an exterior door to the basement stairwell but the HABS plans show a window only.

Once the stones were carved, I painted the whole structure with two coats of gray primer.

The windows are laser cut. Each window has three layers, a laser cut frame, laser cut mullions and a hand cut acetate glazing. The laser cut pieces are self adhesive so they can be easily assembled with no glue mess.

To simulate the stone foundation I carved stones into a thick coat of wood putty applied to the foundation sides. I waited until the putty was set but not completely hardened when I carved it. I gave the stones a coat of acrylic sandstone paint for simulate the mortar. Then I painted each stone with varying shades of brown and gray. Once that was dry, I gave all the stones a wash of dark gray. When dry, I dry brushed with light gray to blend all the colors together and bring out highlights.

I added a layer

of cardboard to represent the attic floor, but I did not detail the interior.


I used cardboard for the roof, as I was hoping to capture the sway-back nature of the prototype structure. The prototype roof has 9 rafters made with 3 x 3 oak beams. They are pinned at the ridge with a single pin. There is no ridge beam. That probably explains why the roof sagged. My cardboard sheet and underlying rafters are glued and are too strong, so my roof did not sag. I glued my roof to the structure, so it is not removable.


The shingles are laser cut maple with two sided adhesive. The prototype shingles are double overlapped, mine just overlap one way. To do shingles like the prototype would require each shingle being added one by one. I stained the shingles with Mt Albert Gray weathering wash. I touch a few shingles with Mt Albert Black, Barn Red and some acrylic burnt under to give variation. When all the alcohol and water evaporated, I dry brushed with warm grays.

The chimney is carved bass wood. I spray painted it red oxide. Then I painted the mortar lines with a Woodcraft paint pen. I painted a black strip to simulate the tar flashing at the base of the chimney though many ACW era photos do not show visible flashing at the chimneys. I also added several black washes of flat black acrylic paint to simulate soot, including soot washed onto the roof.



I primed the whole structure with Rustoleum gray. Then brush painted white craft acrylic in thin coats. When dry, I scraped several areas with an X-acto knife. I left some of the peeling paint on the structure to enhance the weathered effect. As for the peeling paint, I was inspired by an out building at City Point National Park. Photos show the paint on the Liester House to be in good shape at the time of the battle. But my farm has been in occupied territory for the better part of two years, so I decided to show some signs of neglect.


The photos show the model building posed at Stoneman's Station, but eventually I will move it to Potomac Run.

This building is a test bed for a future Alkem Scale Models kit. I learned some tricks for the next time.

May 7, 2010

Pizza -It's everywhere!

We had another successful work session on Thursday May 6th. The evening began with pizza, lots of it. I made two kinds and Jeff brought two more. I also made some Chinese Cole Slaw for the crew to add some veggie content.

Once fed, the crew moved to the layout room for work.

Doug spiked rail. Marco soldered feeders.











Jeff painted the walls in the harbor area base blue. Christian worked Call of Duty Modern Warfare again. Lots of bad guys bit the dust.
















Mark ran feeder bus wires under the harbor area. Then he finished the bench work on the west end. (Nice shirt!)

I continued to glue ties in the Brook siding area with supervision by Doug and Marco. The 30 inch radius curves and easements really take their toll on siding lengths. I need to order some more switch stands so we can finish laying the track.

Meanwhile, AW was making coconut macaroons with chocolate chips - a specialty cookie of hers. Very yummy.

We quit about 10:15PM.

Thanks guys. This is keeping the momentum up.