Saturday, October 5, 2013

Pre-Fall Update

Broadway Limited Paragon2 Series USRA Light Mikado 2-8-2 steam locomotiveAlmost five months has passed since my last post, and unfortunately I have made little progress over the summer, mostly due to my schedule being insanely busy. However, with the leaves turning yellow and snow on the mountain-tops west on the horizon, my sights are now turning back to my layout now that I find myself staying indoors more often. Plus, a little break from something you love doing never hurts.

 USRA Light Mikado 2-8-2 in front my Northern Light & Power kitStructurally, I think everything is done. I try to find things to add, or even modify, however find that quite often more is definitely not better. Details on the other hand, there can never be enough of those, so I will be looking into further detailing, including figures, wildlife, foliage, etc. Vehicles and rolling stock also still need to be added. I have done a little experimenting with weathering trains, though I will unquestionably need more practice at this point before I start on anything worth any significant value. Acquiring HO scale vehicles also seems to still be quite difficult.

I have some new photos attached to this post, taken for a recent photo-book that I put together showing the visual progression of my layout. These photos were just taken last week, and as you can see there is nothing really new.


Locomotive 3725 descending down to staging tracks


USRA Light Mikado 2-8-2

Atlas Signal Tower and Water Tower kits on the edge of the rail maintenance yard

Northern Light & Power kit with my USRA Light Mikado locomotive

Downtown section with completed kits and details

Overall view of Ty's Model Railroad

Locomotive 3725 along the mountain bluffs

USRA Light Mikado 2-8-2 approaching the trestle

USRA Light Mikado 2-8-2 about to descend from the trestle

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Running My USRA Light Mikado 2-8-2

It’s been a while since I last posted. Currently I’m experimenting a bit with weathering rolling stock and locomotives; more to come on that later. I’ve also been doing a bit of touch-up work on my scenery and backdrop. In the meantime, I made a little video today while testing out my Broadway Limited Paragon2 Series USRA Light Mikado 2-8-2 steam locomotive, CN#3725. I have no rolling stock on this run, just a caboose tailing the locomotive’s tender. Check it out below!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Layout Scenery Part V - Details

Typical weekend downtown scene
I haven’t had much opportunity to work on my layout this last month, but in the few spare moments I have had, I’ve dedicated it mostly to adding scenic details. These details include traffic signs, additional foliage, figures, and vehicles. It is amazing the amount of detail products readily available by literally hundreds of different manufacturers, and really comes down to just deciding which products to use to achieve your desired look or level of detail.

Typical weekend downtown scene
The first details I added were from a Walther’s Cornerstone City Accessory pack, which included garbage cans, pay phones, fire hydrants, bike racks, mail boxes, and parking meters. These parts require assembly and painting, which isn’t that bad as you then have free range to customize them as you please. I did this with the mail boxes by painting them red to resemble a Canadian Post mail box instead of a blue US Postal Service box. I used these parts almost exclusively in my downtown scene, but did use a few details elsewhere on my layout.

Printed street signs mounted on styrenePrinted street sign mounted on styrene

Printed street sign mounted on styrene

Street signs were next on the list. I couldn’t seem to find commercially-made signs that offered the type and style I was looking for, so I turned to creating my own. I found high-resolution sign images online, then used Adobe Photoshop to scale them down to a prototypical size. Most provinces/states have online traffic standard manuals posted online, which I found useful for sizing. I printed the signs out on 5x7 photo paper at Walmart, then cut each sign out and glued it to a thin sheet of styrene for extra rigidity. I trimmed the styrene right to the edge of each sign with sharp scissors, making them nice and tidy.
 
Printed street sign mounted on styreneCoca-Cola billboard mounted on styrene frame

Styrene sign posts were glued on next, then painted an aluminum colour, along with the back of each sign. I used a dull, almost dead black sharpie to colour the edge of each sign black so it would seamlessly blend the white edge of the styrene into the black border of the sign. Using a new marker seemed to bleed into the photo paper, thus the use of the almost-dead black marker. I then glued the signs to the scenery with superglue. At the same time, I also built a billboard sign out of scrap styrene pieces and a printed Coca-Cola sign.
 
Pedestrian figures socializing in front of White Castle RestaurantWoodland Scenic Accents - dock workers at freight station

Train mechanic figure standing in front of signal towerDock workers opening a wooden crate

People figures were probably the most enjoyable details to add, as they really brought the layout and scenery to life. Most of the figures are from Woodland Scenics, and a few from Model Power. I still have neglected to give my layout an exact era, and as a result some figures seem a bit dated, while others are much more modern. Overall however, everything seems to blend together almost seamlessly. Woodland Scenics offers an amazingly large selection of detailed figures and scenes, and there are still several figures that I will be adding in the near future.

Woodland Scenic Accents - Dock WorkersWoodland Scenic Accents - Train Mechanics

 Woodland Scenic Accents - Backyard BBQWoodland Scenic Accents – Backyard BBQ

Vehicles are proving to be much more difficult to find than anticipated. Cars and trucks for the steam and transition eras are large in selection and availability, but more modern vehicles, especially North American prototypes, seem to be almost impossible to come by, are costly, and have a small selection. Model Power seems to be the most promising as far as selection, even though most of their models are European makes. Atlas had a run of North American vehicles, but I currently cannot seem to find any other than the two Ford Explorers I purchased last month. Adding more cars and trucks will most definitely be an ongoing process!

Tool and storage shed details in rail yardWoodland Scenics tool shed kit

Scrap pile behind rail yard maintenance shed Wooden pallet and parts from the Walther’s Cornerstone City Accessory pack

My latest detail was a small woodland Scenics tool shed die-cast kit which I installed into the turn-table yard. This small structure is highly detailed, and comes with several separate tools and details that you can use elsewhere on your layout, such as I did. Other details I added were small benches that I purchased off of eBay, as well as wooden pallets from a local hobby shop. Scrap pieces, such as left over rail and small pieces of scrap wood, all can be used as well. I added a small pile of scrap rail and lumber right behind the work shed, and used unwanted spare plastic wheels on the turn-table spurs to represent a locomotive repair area.

Woodland Scenic Accents - Train MechanicsIndustrial area and train maintenance yard details

Train maintenance shed and surrounding details
 
I don’t think there can ever be enough or too much detail, and that the only limitation is your imagination. Detail is what truly prevents a model from ever being entirely complete, as there is always something that can be improved upon, well at least in most cases. After 3 years of construction, the skills I have gained are significant, and there are several items and details from the beginning stages of my layout that I now want to re-model or enhance. I am sure that any future time spent on my model for the rest of its existence, will be dedicated to adding and enhancing details. Oh, and rolling stock.  

Ty’s Model Railroad

ArialArial view of Ty’s Model Railroad layout

Arial view of Ty’s Model Railroad layoutArial view of Ty’s Model Railroad layout

Ty’s Model Railraod layout on February 21st, 2013
 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Lighting - Day & Night

Layout with accessory lights and nighttime lighting mode
Adding proper lighting to a layout can literally turn it into a completely different model, and goes far beyond the main ceiling or valance lights. Installing accessory lighting allows details and scenes that were once typically less noticeable (such as detailed building interiors), to now be a main focal point. I knew from the start that I wanted lighting on my layout. This would include interior lighting on most of my buildings, street lamps, and some type of night-effect lighting to illuminate the overall layout.
 
To assist with adding accessory lights as I constructed my layout, I planned all of the wiring into my master wiring plan at the start of construction. I pre-installed power bus wires under my benchwork, and installed switches on my control panel to turn power to the bus wires on and off. The bus wires are powered directly by a dedicated, 12V 2A DC power supply, and are split into two separate circuits, accessory 1 & accessory 2. These two circuits are each controlled through two automotive-type relays connected to a corresponding toggle switch on the main control panel.

Overview of my layout with daylight lightingOverview of my layout in night mode

The majority of my structures had lighting installed during their construction (see any of my posts regarding structure kits for details). I left a long wire lead protruding from either the bottom or side of each building, which I then passed through a small drilled hole in my benchwork and tied it into the pre-installed power bus below. Any visible wire leads on top of my layout were simply hidden with scenery material.

Close up detail of brass street lampAutomotive-type relays used to switch on accessory 1 & 2 circuits

The brass street lamps along my streets were installed with the same method, however I did need to wrap the base of each lamp a couple times with electrical tape to provide a snug fit once I inserted them into the drilled holes. The street lamps are rated for 12 volts, but a full 12 volts produced way too much light, so I added a 110 ohm resistor to each street lamp to provide a softer, more realistic glow. Both the building lights and street lamps are wired onto the accessory 1 circuit.

Industrial section with daylight lightingIndustrial section with nighttime lighting

Accessory lighting on your layout is most effective when, quite obviously, the room that houses your layout is dark. However, having a completely dark room, void of any light, is much too dark and the majority of your layout will not be visible. You can create low levels of ambient room lighting by simply dimming the room lighting, but this is only effective if you use halogen or incandescent-type bulbs as most fluorescents are not dimmable. If you use fluorescent lighting (like I do), you will need to completely turn off the lights. More so, dimming your layout room’s lights still doesn’t create a realistic night-time light, so the most effective method (in my opinion), is to have separately installed “night mode” lights.

Industrial section with daylight lightingIndustrial section with nighttime lighting

For this “night mode” effect lighting, I wanted to recreate a moonlit scene, so the light needed to have a soft, bluish-white glow. To create this type of light, I constructed three light diffusing boxes out of styrene measuring 2 1/2” x 4 1/2” with a curved diffusing lens protruding out from the base by about 1 ¾”. I then installed one super bright white and one super bright blue LED into the base of each diffuser box, about 1” apart from the center. After adding the proper resistors to each LED, I wired all three of the diffuser boxes to my accessory 2 lighting circuit and installed them to the ceiling above my layout.

Town center section with daylight lightingTown center section with nighttime lighting

The diffuser boxes combine the intense light from the blue and white LED’s and emits an even, soft bluish-white light similar to moonlight. This emitted light provides just enough of a natural nighttime effect that the entire layout is still visible, while allowing your scenery lighting to stand out and be the main focal point.

Night mode styrene light diffuser box installed over layoutStyrene light diffuser box installed beside main layout mini-spiral florescent bulbs

As I mentioned before, I use fluorescent lighting for the main lighting of my layout. I originally had installed standard incandescent bulbs over my layout, which were fine during construction, but recently changed to mini fluorescent spiral bulbs. I use 6 of these bulbs (3 bright white and 3 warm white) in combination to produce a bright, natural daytime light. I found that incandescent bulbs alone produced way too much yellow-red light, and the typical bright white mini spiral florescent alone produced an unrealistic blue hue. I also uninstalled the large florescent ceiling light next to my layout, as it cast a very blue, overpowering light onto the right half of my layout.

Overview of my layout with accessory lights and night mode activated

Street lamp and vehicle at nightOverview of my layout in night mode