Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Waterbury Peninsula Campaign - the planning continues . . .

A few days ago I described the basic approach I'm taking with the peninsula area. When I started laying out the path for the waterways, I quickly determined one of two options - both of which are shown in my rather rough sketch attached.
The first shows the river arranged as I've been planning - essentially the water "disappears" (somewhat gracefully, I hope) around a bend and between two low hills. One of those hills forms a "background" for the feedmill and freighthouse in Waterbury.


The area around the station/feedmill will remain a "freelance free zone" - in other words it will be prototype specific. Some of the rest of Waterbury will be freelanced as needed to best fit the space.
NOTE: The white building in the lower right is a Branchline creamery kit. The white line through the center represents a road. (hey, Rick Johnson I'm not . . .) Not sure the creamery will remain in that location.
Although this looked okay on paper, and in initial planning - looking at it now I'm thinking the river/feedmill/background hill is just a little too cramped. It just doesn't look natural. To look right a mill should have a intake and an upper pond, with a falls, and a lower pond. I have that here, but it looks too forced - and the lobe end of the peninsula would end up with a few town buildings, a street, and a bunch of trees . . . and believe me when you model New England the last thing you need is a reason to make even MORE trees . . .


This shows my current leanings - and it offers the advantage(?) of possibly adding a second mill (with another dam/falls) in the location currently occupied by the creamery building.
More importantly, even without a second mill complex, I think the water course looks a lot more natural. The hills (represented by the stacked foamboard) can be moved slightly to the right - which will free up the area behind the feedmill and freight house.
Disadvantage - I'll have to add another bridge to the mainline along a curve in the foreground. It doesn't have to be a particularly long bridge, but bridges, especially on curves, can be a real pain. One possibility is a large culvert (or even two culverts) is one possibility. The other may be to do what Paul Dolkos suggested and simply let the river "disappear" behind some trees.
Perhaps that bane of New England modelers - all those trees - are useful additions to our bag of tricks. 

It's almost time to fire up the foamboard excavation tools . . .

Monday, June 27, 2011

Peninsula Campaign - Part 1 - Planning*

I've been accused on not doing "enough planning" in the past. I'd say I do too much planning, but it tends to take a 3-d form like this.

I spent some time last evening creating and arranging mockups (of structures, and of some of the landforms) on the lobe end of the peninsula.

The peninsula in question is located at the entrance to the layout area of the basement. One side of the peninsula is devoted to the Waterbury, Vermont scene, the key elements of which are the station, the feedmill located directly across the tracks from the station, and the freight house (which is not mocked up in these photos). While there were small industries located trackside in Waterbury, I'm not planning on modeling all of them.

The question of how to handle the "other side" of the peninsula has been a particular sticking point. I've long had an interest in water-powered mills in New England - but modeling one of a narrow shelf is problematic since to accurately portray how they function there has to be an "lower pond" and an upper pond, separated by a dam. Also, some of these mills were massive rambling affairs - what I was looking for was a (preferably) wooden mill - definitely more of a scenic highlight that an major traffic generator for the ole' SNE.

I started with a BEST Trains kit ( for the Berry Machine shop in Wolfeboro, NH. When I got that kit, Dave Emery mentioned to me he had plans for the rest of the mill complex. He kindly lent me the 3-ring binder filled with drawings for each of the mill buildings and detailed information on how the mill operated. Believe it or not, this place was in business into the 1970s - still making rail shipments until that time.

After spending some time sketching out the plan, I figured it was promising enough to move on to the next step - a three dimensional mockup of the entire peninsula.  I don't do this for every scene I model, but with all the elements involved here I felt It was important to see how the water, the mill buildings, and, Waterbury station scene would all fit together. And, perhaps most importantly, see if I could maintain some visual break between the two sides of the peninsula.

The photos show how this has progressed to this point.

The first image shows the Waterbury station scene - note: the structures are obviously unfinished or "stand ins" at this point. In the second photo, there will be an industry (a canning plant) built "into the hill." You can see the end of the canning plant spur in the lower left corner of the picture:

The next photo shows the view looking back from the "mill side" peninsula - NOTE: the roof height on these mockups will actually be lower on the modeled scene since I have to "excavate" the river bed. The red mockup in the background is the Machine Shop - the penstock and boilerhouse (outlined on the paper) are also included in the BEST Trains kit. River will go between the large mill building on the right and the grain mill and woodshed (the two mocked up buildings on the left. River will then widen out to form the lower pond beyond the penstock, with the water flowing "into the hillside" to the right (behind the main mill structure).

Here's a view looking from Waterbury towards the end of the peninsula (NOTE: the looming 1" scale dollhouse is only there for me to finish wiring it . . . it doesn't reside there permanently!)

Initial assessment:
1.  The elements will all "work" and seem to fit the space without looking overly crowded.
2. The hills may have to have an unrealistically steep angle behind the feedmill to help mask the end of the backdrop and still allow the depth for the mill. One possibility would be to shorten the main mill building slightly - the other would be to make the ridge one piece of foam taller. Also, the trees add about 3-4" of height to the ridges.
3. Even if some of the rooftops on Watebury are visible on the mill side - or vice versa - they will look like roofs poking through the trees - so this may not be a big problem.
3. Photoshop backdrops for the sky will be a necessity for overall "pretty pics" of this end of the layout. Close up, low angle shots will work much better in this section.

*The name of this thread is presented with all due deference to the Duke of Wellington, General McClellan, etc . . .

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A bold fascia color choice?

I haven’t posted on this blog lately simply because I’ve not done much on the layout.  Oh, I’ve done plenty of thinking about the layout, but not much actual progress has been made.  The reasons are many, including spring fever, a large amount of landscaping work that started in late March and is only now winding down, and simply a loss of inertia.  A little bit of planning never hurt anyone.  And daydreaming about that next layout is perfectly harmless, provided it doesn’t overshadow progress on the layout you’re actually trying to build. 
But this bout of analysis paralysis has been the worst I’ve ever experienced.  In short, I’d taken down all but the basic benchwork for a large, basement filling layout (that I’d built in near record time) and things haven’t fallen back into place as quickly as I thought they would.  I have a number of structures and building mockups – I must have arranged, rearranged, and then re-rearranged them a bunch of times. Nothing seemed to look right, nothing was working right.  In short, I was frustrated – burned out – and somewhat ticked off at myself and the layout. 
So, as I’ve been busy at work at and puttering around the house for the last few months I’ve been doing a lot of second guessing what I’m planning to do in the basement.  “Is this the “best” benchwork footprint?”  “Should I model this town or that town?”  I’ve even questioned era and prototype – after all, I’ve been doing some form of the Central Vermont steam era thing for well over a couple of decades.  Perhaps it’s time to do something truly different?
I’ve decided the answer, at this time, for me, is “no.” I have the necessary collection of rolling stock and locomotives (too many of the latter, but that’s a story for another day) to come pretty close to accurately recreating the CV of the late steam era. I have a plan for most of the layout that I think will be interesting to build and operate.  A huge question still remaining is what “Town 3” will represent.  Perhaps some form of White River Junction?  Perhaps a semi-freelanced industry such as a paper mill or limestone quarry. Or maybe another “typical” Northern division CV town – (If that’s the route I choose then the two most likely candidates at this point are Swanton or Randolph). Since I don’t really know what I’m going to do about the south end of the railroad, I’m going to loosely glue a few Atlas code 83 turnouts and lengths of flextrack in place as a temporary staging yard.
What I need to do is focus on those sections of the layout that are fairly firm in my mind – Waterbury and Essex Junction.  After all, there’s no reason to let over thinking prevent me from making some headway on the rest of the railroad.
What does any of this have to do with installing fascia panels?

The Essex Junction trainshed mockup in place.
Plenty. You see, one of the best cures for analysis paralysis is to do something – anything – that resembles progress. In my case, I was sick of tripping over the strips of Masonite and other wood cluttering the basement. Rather than wait until I had a “perfect” track plan I decided my immediate goal was to get the benchwork completed. This in my case meant installing the fascia panels. Once that’s done, the benchwork will, at long last, be complete.
So, what comes after that? All the track is laid in Waterbury – and even wired and painted. But there’s still a lot of track in Essex Junction that needs to be installed. Refining the Essex Junction track arrangement is the next “big” project. I've got the mockup of the trainshed built and have been using it to determine the exact position of these key element in the scene.

For reference, the mockup is about 28" long in HO scale.

View from looking south towards the trainshed.
NOTE: Sky blue is not the final fascia color. Those are actually leftover pieces of Masonite from the lower-level backdrops on the formerly double-decked peninsula.