Monday, July 29, 2013

The Evolution of a Mill Town - Everett


This overview shows Everett in its mocked-up glory. The Green Mountain paper complex dominates the town, as it should. Although Curren Mills, on the right, is also a large customer.
With the "open country" scenery well in hand (I installed the barn in the peninsula scene last week) I've been spending some time thinking through what the Everett scene should ultimately look like.

As a reminder, "Everett" is a fictional place - but it serves as important purpose on the model railroad providing a place for one or two large "destination" industries. In other words, industries that require a dedicated turn to switch them out each shift.
But what should this imaginary place called "Everett" LOOK like? For those who know the prototype, imagine it to be something like Bellows Falls, St Johnsbury, or Bennington moved north of White River Junction along the CV ..... something like that.

Sometimes inspiration comes from an unexpected source. This Mike Pearsall painting showed up on another forum and provided much of the inspiration for the Everett scene.
But I hadn't come up with a real inspiration for the scene - what I think it might look like. Then I ran across this Mike Pearsall painting on another forum - and it's what I think of when I picture the Everett scene. No, I don't plan to model this painting exactly - but the general impression - a medium-sized city, mountains in the background - a street busy enough to require crossing guards but not so busy that the railroad or state have gone to the expense of lowering or raising the street to cross the tracks - residences on the hillside.
Everett is based on a mishmash of inspirations from various New England locations. It’s also inspired by model railroad scenes – anyone familiar with Paul Dolkos’ B&M layout can spot the origin of the paper mill complex; and there’s a series of New England “triple decker” tenements, complete with laundry drying on the line, that could have been dropped from Dick Elwell’s or Earl Smallshaw’s railroads.

“Tweaks” –there always seem to be some!
The first problem was the track arrangement wasn’t exactly working. Both spurs in the foreground (one planned to go to a team track or freight house, the other to a feed mill) came off the main. Basically there were three turnouts in a row coming off the mainline and it just didn’t look right. It also meant there was little if any room for the passenger station platform since there were sidings along the entire length of the main.
So I rearranged the siding to create a switchback from the feedmill track and lengthened the feedmill track. You can see that in the top photo. While this will make the area a little more difficult to switch the tradeoff is a much better scene. Once the altered track was wired and working I spent the rest of the evening playing around with various buildings in the foreground – a freight house, a small factory, etc. All interfered with reaching the turnouts and tracks leading the paper mill complex in the rear. What I needed in the foreground was a very low industry that wouldn’t impede someone reaching into the scene. So I got out the foam excavation tools and dug out enough of the pink foam to create an area for a sand/gravel dealers supply yard. The trestle is an American Model Builder’s laser kit.

American Model Builder's coal trestle kit. This will be a stone and gravel dealer supply yard.
Once the track was rearranged I spent some time yesterday afternoon arranging and rearranging various kit walls, boxes, tubes, partially and completely finished structures and other "shapes" as a type of 3-D sketching. It's getting close.
Green Mountain Paper Co. complex. Chemical yard in center, "old mill" to the left with the "new" warehouse to the right.
I think the Sylvan station building, which dates back to SNE #1 in Wisconsin, may be a little too small for a place that's turning out to be much bigger place than I first envisioned so that station may be replaced with the one from the South River Cambridge crossing kit.
Green Mountain Paper to the far left. Curren Mill complex (named after my late friend and co-worked Art Curren) in the center. The Sylvan station, which has served on every layout I've built since my first Southern New England may be a little too small for a town this size.
Anyone familiar with the CV in Bellows Falls will recognize the “brick canyon” effect. I’m not sure those mockups aren’t just a little too big, but they present a nice contrast the extremely rural scenery found on the rest of the railroad. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Planning the Next Step

What's next? Seems like I'd get a lot of "bang for the buck" by getting rid of the pink hillside in the distance. View from Williams Creek towards the White River yard leads.
Last night was one of those evenings when I just couldn’t get motivated to work on anything on the layout. Truthfully, this whole week has been that way. Sometimes you just don’t feel inspired I guess. I’ve been dabbling with ballasting the track – even photographing and videotaping the process for future articles or blog posts – but mostly I’ve been staring at the layout – trying to figure out what to do next. I've also been struggling with the arrangements of buildings in the freelanced paper mill town of Everett.
With the test session out of the way, and the “front door” to the layout looking passable, I’m at a wonderful phase of layout construction – where I can choose to do anything.
I currently have one deadline hanging over my head.  The layout will be open for tours and operating sessions during the NMRA MER convention (our local Region) this October. So, I want it to be as presentable as possible for that. I could focus on rolling stock, or scenery, or structures, or further perfections to the operating scheme prior to that weekend. But I can’t do all of it at once. I know the old axiom that much of the work on layouts gets done in the name of layout tours. But I don’t want to enter the “model railroad season” of the fall burned out! Nor do I particularly want to rush anything just to get “something” in place for the convention tours. I’d rather showcase my best work, with most of the layout remaining unfinished.  
So, I’ve gone back and forth with this for the last couple of weeks – until it hit me. The layout has to be operational for the weekend in October. That’s still more than 10 weeks away. 
A logical approach is to work on the layout until Labor Day weekend finishing up another structure or two, or getting the “basic” scenery installed around the White River yard lead area so photos taken of Williams Creek or Everett don’t show a ridge of pink foam mountains! (see photo above) I also plan to have at least one more work session before Labor Day.
But I need to leave myself time to tweak the layout.  After Labor Day I plan to spend a week or two of evenings getting the railroad ready to operate and show off – clearing out the layout room, cleaning track, staging trains, checking decoders and the like. Then I’ll host another Sea Trial session in late September that will give me time to address any issues we uncover in plenty of time for the convention op session.
If the layout doesn’t need a lot of tweaking I can spend the my modeling time prior to the convention on the rolling stock. Frankly, I’m sick of the assortment of WM, C&O and Erie lettered locomotives we’ve been running – I’d like a lot more Central Vermont and Southern New England power on the layout! But the last four years have been spent building, and rebuilding the layout – with little or no time for locomotives and cars. It’s time to address that – but first one more big push to dress up a little more of the layout.

Monday, July 15, 2013

"Front Door" Update

View from bottom of stairs when entering the layout room. The tree line in the far distance provides a "3-D" backdrop for the peninsula and serves to mask the view of the staging yard on the far wall. Plans call for a distant backdrop on that wall to complete the "vista."
Long-time readers of this blog (both of them....) remember that one of the main reasons I completely gutted my layout three years ago and started again was a desire to have an appealing vista as the "front door" to the layout. Not only did I want an appealing scene for the sake of a scene, I also wanted to immediately tell visitors something about the railroad - this is in New England, or at least in a place where the trees change color in the fall; and the setting is fairly rural. Sure, there's a town or two, but frame buildings outnumber brick factories. 
BEST Trains Berry Machine. This is normally sited as a water-powered mill, but I've chosen to make it coal fired!
Although it may seem I've dropped off the face of the earth lately, I have been working on the layout. But my efforts were slowed by summer activities. Then about two weeks ago I was asked to appear in an interview for a model railroad video publication. "We'd like to ask you about the process of rebuilding your layout - and shoot a few scenes on the railroad itself." 
Although the railroad is now operational, I've been spending that minimal modeling time this summer doing things like ballasting the track (which as anyone who's ever built a model railroad can tell you is one sure-fire way to ensure the thing needs to be "tweaked" again. 
 In short, although the layout works, it's not much to look at - there isn't one single scene that's truly "finished." 
In this overview of the peninsula you can see the north end staging yard along the wall. The creamery siding needs to be installed, and obviously the creamery needs to be finished. I wasn't about to mess with trackwork before having the layout video taped - even if this is just a few "B roll" shots!
But I decided to put on the old college try and at least get some more trees on the railroad, maybe add some static grass, and finish up a couple of roads. The results are shown in this posts photos. I'd consider all this to be the "first coat" of scenery. But it's better than the unpainted plaster, pink styrofoam that existed a few days ago. 
Southern New England Ry. van 4045 (a Walthers car with a resin cupola from Funaro) on the approach to Willams Creek. Even though the scene lacks ballast, it looks a LOT more finished than it did a few days ago!
Williams Creek also got a freshening up with new trees, static grass, and a pole line. Obviously, the White River scene (the pink foam in the background) needs the basic scenic treatment!