Sunday, December 30, 2012

This Is The End

The end of what?  For months, we've been hearing that December 21st would be the end of the world.  Turns out, that was nothing more than a short-sighted calendar maker, the Ancient Mayan version of Y2K.  Nope, that's not the end that I'm referring to.

There were times over the last four days that I thought it was "the end", as I struggled with one of the worst colds or flu that I've ever had.  It takes a lot to completely knock me down, and I was down for a solid three days.  I've never been delirious from a fever before, but according to my wife, at one point I was rambling and didn't know where I was.  Nasty stuff, but I'm on the upswing now.  Nope, still not the end that I'm referring to.

Is it the end of the line?  While it is true that in the photo you see, the line ends about a foot behind the locomotive, terminated by a mirror and, behind that, the wall of my basement.  Still, not the end that I'm referring to.

No, the end that I'm talking about is the end of the year.  The end of 2012.  Time to look back at the plans that I made and the goals that I set for myself this year:

  • I said that I wanted to complete the Author Achievement for the MMR.  Done.  In addition, I also completed the Volunteer Achievement.
  • I said that I wanted to publish 2 more articles in national magazines.  Done and Done.  I also had an article in the December issue of NMRA Magazine on which I shared credit with Gerry Leone and Lester Breuer.
  • I said that I wanted to get something, a photo or an article, into Model Railroader magazine.  Done.  They published two of my photos, one in March, one in September.
  • I said that I wanted to attend to the 2012 TLR Convention in Sioux Falls.  Done
  • I wanted to complete two major structures for the layout, one of them being the depot.  The depot is almost finished, but there is no second structure nearing completion at this time.
  • I was planning to present two clinics for the local Twin Cities Division, covering scratchbuilding techniques.  Done.  I actually did one clinic on scratchbuilding, and one on natural scenery.

Looking at that list, I have to say 2012 was a successful year for me, at least in terms of this hobby.  I certainly have no complaints, except the ever-present "I wish I had more time" complaint.

What's ahead for 2013?  Aside from some obvious things, I'm not sure, I haven't really thought about it.

  • The 2013 TLR Convention is here in the Twin Cities, so there won't be a trip to some exotic location like Sioux Falls or Dubuque this year.  I also didn't have the sense enough to lay low, I volunteered to help organize and promote the thing, and it looks like I'll be presenting at least one clinic, possibly two.
  • I'd like to publish three articles this year.  One is already on deck, slated for sometime this spring.  I have another partially written, and nothing lined up yet for a third.
  • Now that I own a "real" camera, I think I might try to get a photo into the 2014 NMRA calendar or possibly even Model Railroader's 2014 calendar.
  • Now that I've perfected the scratchbuilt double-hung window, I'm going to start construction of the Lakeside Inn, with the intent of finishing it in 2013.
  • My term as the PR guy for the Thousand Lakes Region ends in May.  I've been approached about taking over as editor of The Fusee.  Unless I talk myself out of it in the next 5 months, I'll probably assume that role this year.

Isn't that a great list?  Only one thing on there even remotely comes close to "playing with toy trains" - that's the construction of the depot and the inn, and I consider that more a form of art than anything.  The rest of the things on that list involve writing, photography, public speaking, education, leadership, and a variety of other skills that have nothing to do with toy trains.  That's what makes this such a fun hobby - there are countless ways to be involved, including actually playing with toy trains.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Under The Lights

With the fake interior installed, and the structure permanently glued down, it's time to turn on the lights and see if the illusion works.  First, let me apologize for the lousy photos - I'm struggling to find the right technique for getting good shots of the lit interior.  There's a trick here that I just haven't figured out yet.

Here's looking in through the bay window at one of the figures seated on a bench in the waiting area.  You can also see his buddy standing beside him, and the clerk at the ticket counter.  Part of the horrid linoleum floor is visible as well.

I haven't decided what this guy is doing yet.  He's too well-dressed to be a depot worker.  My best guess at this point is that he's a professor from Minneapolis, accompanying some secret cargo travelling from the West Coast.  Some mysterious relic from South America or the South Pacific perhaps?

There's some sort of tall tale being told here.  From the posture, it must involve wrestling a bear.

That's all I have for now.  The photos really don't do justice to the lighting, it has to be seen first-hand to get the full effect.  Or I need to figure out how to take the pictures correctly.

It's Getting Crowded In Here

The depot interior is finished.  I built benches for the waiting area, put down a horrid blue and white linoleum floor, and place a few figures in strategic locations to create the illusion of a busy depot.  The two seated figures were originally wearing shorts, not exactly appropriate for November in northern Minnesota, especially in 1920.  Also not appropriate was the bright yellow dress that the female figure was wearing.  Since these people will barely be visible, and will be viewed through plastic windows, detail isn't super important, but that bright yellow dress would have been out of place.  I painted the dress brown, and painted over the bare legs on the two seated men.

As I said, detail isn't really important for the figures in the waiting area, they simply need to provide some colors and shadows to provide the sense that there people inside.  The freight area is a different matter.  Since it has large open doors, the interior is clearly visible.  Detail DOES matter here.  I spent a lot more time on the pieces for this section.  The crates are cast metal, carefully painted with multiple shades of brown and gray, then washed and weathered to look like wood.

I still have a couple of pieces to add to the freight room - a scale, a couple of brooms, just an assortment of stuff to make it look "lived in".  The waiting area is completely finished.  It has to be - the depot structure is now permanently attached to the platform.  There's no way to get in there to add more.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Holiday Visitors

Tomorrow I'm having visitors.  The father of a co-worker is in town for Christmas and wants to see the layout.  The good thing about this - it's a reason to clean up the layout.  The bad thing - I have to clean up the layout.

Things are all tidy now, the tools are put away, the work surface cleaned off, scraps are in the Bucket O'Crap, and there's nothing sitting on the layout that doesn't belong on the layout.  I cleaned the track, and did a quick systems check to make sure everything still runs.

To make things a little more interesting for my guests, I dug through my assortment of little people, and found a few holiday travelers to add to the depot.  The checkers players have moved back outdoors as well.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Lights Are On, and Somebody's Home

The wallpaper has been hung, the carpet's installed, and the lights are permanently wired up.  Looks like the railway agent and his family have moved in - somebody's peeking out of an upstairs window.

As you can see, I used warm yellow LED's throughout the structure, upstairs, downstairs, and in the freight area.  Five bulbs in total, each with its own resistor, soldered and heat-shrinked, held in place with hot glue in case I ever need to replace one.  The upstairs ceiling lifts out to give me access to the first floor bulbs.

The upstairs windows are covered with curtains made from toilet paper (clean, I think).  They're just transparent enough to allow some colors and shadows to be visible.  The one window with the open curtain, the one shown above, allows just enough to be seen to create the illusion of a fully detailed upstairs.

All it needs now is a finished roof, some crates in the freight room, and a few people to make it complete.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

It's Warm In Here

Remember the two fellas who were deeply involved in a lively game of checkers?  Well, it snowed last night in Minnesota, and it's cold outside, so they've moved indoors, under the newly installed warm yellow LED lighting.

Conveniently, the freight doors were also installed today, so if the warm lighting isn't enough to keep out the cold, they can shut the doors!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Weather Outside Is Frightful

All of the window and door trim is installed, basic structure is complete, and the walls are sporting a shiny new coat of paint.

Looks good, right?  Well, anybody who has ever painted their own house knows that it doesn't last long enough.  Sooner or later, the weather takes a toll, and that flawless finish starts looking a little tired, something like this:

As I mentioned earlier, with the weathering applied, it's impossible to tell that I forgot to paint the window frames.  It's also very difficult to tell that the door is actually printed on paper.  The weathering does a beautiful job of tying it all together.

Up next, finishing the (moveable!) freight doors, then on to the roof.  It's coming together!

A Little Holiday Trimming

The doors were all hung in the doorways with care,
In hopes that the passengers soon would be there.
The knobs were installed all snug in their holes,
Ummm, uhhhh, something, something...

 OK, that's as far as I can take this.  Seriously though, the front and rear entry doors are installed, including door knobs!

The door is actually a photo of a door, printed with my inkjet printer, then glued to a piece of cereal box cardboard.  The knob is the head of a tiny wire brad, snipped off and poked through a hole in the door.  Not exactly to scale, but the larger size sort of emphasizes that "this door has a door knob!".

But wait, there's more!  I also started on the trim around the doors and windows.  All of the pieces have been cut, from scale 1"x4" stock.  Here they are, stuck to the sticky side of a lint roller sheet, waiting to be painted.  The sticky paper holds them still so that I can paint them all at once, and helps to keep them from warping.

After painting, installation is a simple matter of gluing the pieces in place around the various windows and doors.

Looking at that last photo, you may be asking yourself "Is that trim really painted?".  Yes, it is, and yes, I purposely chose a color that is very much the same color as the bare wood.  Why?  Because I realized well into the installation of the windows that I had forgotten to paint the window frames before installing the window glass.  Knowing that it would be impossible to paint them without getting paint on the glass, I chose to hide my mistake in plain sight.  Once the weathering has been done, you won't be able to tell that the frames are unpainted.