February 16, 2009


Now that the Falmouth scene is operational, it's time to start some scenery. I have ballasted some track so far, but before I got too far along I want to get the backdrops installed.

I knew that backdrops will be a important aspect of the presentation. About half of the layout is built on a shelf two feet or less in depth. Furthermore, the larger size of O Scale trains compared to what I am used to working with in N Scale, makes a good backdrop even more important.

Although I like to paint, I wasn't sure my skills were sufficient to make a convincing backdrop.

Enter Brian Kammerer. He is a professional artist who is also dedicated civil war model railroader. He is the creator of the film, "The Other Great Locomotive Chase" It's an historical fiction story of a locomotive chase that takes place near City Point, Virginia. He used a combination of model scenes and trains with 2 dimensional cutout figures to tell the exciting story. The amazing work took Brian 10 years to accomplish. The film has won numerous awards and I recommend it wholeheartedly. It's a hoot to watch.

Brian graciously offered to let me use the artwork he created for the film in my backdrops. He had painted several long scrolls depicting the City Point waterfront, camp scenes and woods. He scanned the images at high resolution and sent me the files. I opened the files in Photoshop and began to modify them for use in my layout.

The scenes in Brian's movie take place in summer. I needed to change them to winter. Brian did  some of the early modifications -  painting in some dead trees and fall colors. But I decided to use photos of actual winter scenery to augment the backdrops. So I used parts of photos I took to place winter trees in the background. This required a lot of detailed editing of the backdrops to remove the unwanted trees, sky etc. I used the Photoshop watercolor filter to take make the photo trees blend better with Brian's hand painted scenes. I also added a few inches to the bottom of the backdrop, again using ground texture from photos I took at Ft Ward, VA.

I printed out a few full size 13" by 19" mock ups on my Epson 1400 printer to get a feel for size etc.

Next I will bring the files to a print shop for the final print. The first image is 45,000 pixels wide and will print to 12.5 feet. The large files require a fairly high power computer. I am using a 3GHz iMac with 2 GB RAM. I wish I had another 2 GB RAM, as that would speed up the Photoshop operations.

Here is a mock up of the water front area made from several 13x19 inch sheets.  The actual printout will be a single piece of self adhesive vinyl. 

With this busy scene showing so many kinds of cool ships, I decided I won't need as many modeled ships to convey the "forest of masts" effect. So I decided to add a second wharf, Burnside's Wharf, along the back wall.  I realize that getting access to couple/uncouple cars on this per may be difficult, so there will be no spots there, just a track on the wharf with ships along side.  A 2"x 4" piece of lumber is serving as the pier mock up in the photo.


  1. Bernie,
    I have GOT to come see this masterpiece in progress... looks great!

  2. Hello,
    Where is this to scale mockup located so that I can visit it? Burnsides Wharf is my front yard! and I walk to Aquia Landing every day! If someone can email me at miken@datacity.com it would be appreciated.. Please Put "Aquia Creek" in the subject line. Maybe some of you can come here to visit the actual area. One of Walker's Confederate Batteries protecting the Landing in 1861 is right on a bluff in my backyard.