October 14, 2012

Fine Scale Model Expo

A highly detailed scene from the Muskrat Ramble On30 Layout
I attended the Fine Scale Model Railroaders Expo held in Lancaster, PA this weekend. Overall the FSMRR Expo was a small, but interesting show.  On Thursday I presented a clinic on assembling multimedia kits with emphasis on soldering brass kits. We had 22 folks build an Alkem Scale Models water tank. On Friday I presented a talk on "Introduction to Railroads of the Civil War." There was a good crowd present for that.

SS Clinch on the Tennessee River in 1864
The highlight of the show was the ability to reconnect with Andy Small of the Train Troll. Andy agreed to be a sponsor of the ACWRR Road Show.  Andy is a naval architect and the proprietor  of Train Troll, a small company that specializes in ship, barge and boat models for model railroads. He has offered to build a model of the SS Clinch, a river packet ship that served on the Tennessee River and survived the war.  This is great news, as Andy is an excellent modeler, his kits are great and he is an expert on river steam ships.  Andy may also offer this model as a kit if it is commercially feasible. Welcome aboard Andy!

Any other folks interested in sponsoring or participating in the ACWRR RS, please contact me. We can use volunteers to paint figures, build structures, trees and freight cars.

Another highlight from the show was a chance for me to inspect the Muskrat Ramble layout. This is a well known layout that was built in Australia by a group of talented modelers. It came to the US for a train show and was purchased by Dave Revella. It normally resides in the Suncoast Center for Finescale Modeling in Florida.  This layout is similar  in concept to our proposed ACWRR Road Show, though is it bigger and based on a more fanciful subject, a fictional swamp scene in Louisiana.  In any case, it is a crowd pleaser with many extremely well done and highly detailed models visible.

This layout uses a variety of techniques to suspend the valance and they all seem to work. I think we have been over-thinking this aspect of our ACWRR Road Show.  It seems that if there are trains moving through well executed scenery  and past highly detailed models, one does not spend much time looking at the display infrastructure.

While I enjoyed looking at the layout, I spent more time examining the valance, fascia and  sectional joints. Some of my comments are in the captions below.

Lighting adds a lot to the display, both overall and interior.

The right side of the Muskrat Ramble contains a cotton field extending on the backdrop. It is very
convincing.  Good backdrops add a lot to a layout.
Down view angle showing the thick "flats" used along the backdrop. The simple backdrop seems to
work well behind the structures, but I wonder if more could be done at the road area.

The layout uses a variety of valance panels and supports. Almost all are unobtrusive and
nearly "invisible" even though they have joints and intermediate sections.

Trees hide the return loops as they pass through the backdrop

The sectional joint is nearly invisible in this scene both in the sky and on the ground.
A rarely photographed view of the backside infrastructure of the layout. The loops allow the
layout to run nearly unattended, a luxury we won't have with the ACWRR RS.
The paddle wheeler on the layout seemed too much like a caricature to my eye. On our display, we
 intend to show a stern wheeler packet ship in full scale size. It is a challenge to design a layout to
incorporate O Scale boats to full scale, but I think we can achieve it. 

Each individual tree on the layout is rather crude, but when used in mass they look acceptable. I think more
attention could have been paid to the foreground trees.


  1. As I was showing my better half, Amy, your blog she picked up on something I would have over looked on the first picture you show of the Muskrat Rambles Layout. I had commented to her about the detail in The Bayou Fish Company scene and she pointed out that they had Watermelon and Pumpkins together when in real life Watermelons are a summer fruit and Pumpkins don't come into season till much later, towards the early fall. It annoyed her. I explained it was a fictional scene of a fanciful, imaginary RR. It didn't help. She said the pumpkins had to go. LOL

  2. Maybe those are musk melons and not pumpkins? :)