Using Photo Textures in Structure Modeling

As previously noted, I spent most of the scheduled clinic time at  NNGC 2019 sitting in a chair, trying to learn something more about the hobby. One of the highlight clinics for me was Scott Robertson’s clinic Creating and Using Photo Textures for Structures. Scott is a talented and highly productive modeler who uses textured papers for structure modeling in both On30 and G. Being local to Sacramento, Scott’s layout was on the tour the very next day and I made it a point to see the results in person.

Here is what I took away from Scott’s clinic:

  • Paper textures are a material that can be very effective when used appropriately.
  • Appropriate is walls and other flat surfaces. Less convincing are folded up attempts to produce in paper what wood, styrene or metal is better for.
  • A textured wall is far harder to detect when detailed with trim and window castings as per usual.
  • The glossy finish laser printers produce is less effective than the matte finish you get with an ink jet.
  • Teasing up edges and such can enhance realism but you don’t want to viewer to be able to see the texture edge on. For something like that, if you use actual corrugated roofing or whatever, the viewer will assume the rest of it is 3D, too.

Scott stated that he regularly catches people touching structures to see if it is a texture or not. While not one to commit such an atrocity, I did start out trying to spot textures on Scott’s layout but even at a distance of a foot or so, I did not have much success. I was initially frustrated but then I realized that that was the key lesson! We don’t use styrene for structures in hopes of the viewer being able to tell what material we used. Photo textured paper should be the same, results not material is the goal. (We won’t get into the whole leaving your expensive brass locos lacquered raw metal thing. 🙂 )

Here are some of my photos of Scott’s Never Done and Always Changing Railroad in On30 and G.

NNGC 2019

September 4-8 I was lucky enough to be in Sacramento, California for the 39th National Narrow Gauge Convention. Having previously attended the convention when it was in Augusta, Maine, I was looking forward to an inspiring mix of clinics and tours. I was not disappointed and will have a couple of posts highlighting things I found particularly interesting.

The NNGC convention format is one that suits me well:

  • A national profile that brings out serious modellers, vendors and enthusiasts leading to a high level of clinic quality presented by experts in the field. I happily sat through clinics ranging from the geology of the Gilpin, CA mining area to advanced static grass techniques by scenic supply vendors and innovators Martin Welberg(Martin Welberg Scenic Studios) and Jim Elster(Scenic Express).
  • The layout tours are all self guided/selected, no buses! You get a tour book with layout descriptions and a schedule of availability and go where you will. GPS and a car are a must but you can go as slow or as fast as you choose. I managed to see 10 layouts in a single afternoon! All were well worth a solo visit so the total was somewhat overwhelming. I will highly some of my favourites in a separate post but the total photo dump is posted in the Model Rail Radio Facebook group if you want to go looking for it.
  • The “humane” schedule. Layout tours are in the afternoons (12-5pm this year) and everything else shuts down so everybody can go see the layouts: clinics, vendor hall, contest rooms, modular layout displays, all closed.
  • High quality vendors. Not much of the flea market level operation at this show. A hazardous place if you are susceptible to narrow gauge brass, though. 🙂
  • Not too long. Four and a half days was about it for me. I rolled on to the business part of the trip on Sunday afternoon feeling well trained out.
  • An ecumenical outlook. Not all the layouts on the tours were narrow gauge but I saw them well attended nonetheless. I saw standard gauge layouts in HO and O(Proto48!) as well as layouts in Nn3, HOn3, HOn30, Sn3, On30, On3, Fn3, G and whatever letters you give to the 7.5″ gauge live steam in scales up to 1:5.

Keeping My Hand In

I use Templot to generate templates for hand laying track. Templot is a very powerful program that knows way more than I do about prototype track design. It also has a unique user interface that takes time to learn. My challenge is that I don’t create new track templates very often and so tend to forget a lot and have to relearn things.

I was therefore pleased when my friend Trevor Marshall asked me if I would produce a template for a simple Proto:48 test track he is contemplating. Since my entry into 1:48 scale was largely due to enablement by Trevor, I am happy to return the favour and enable right back at him.

I will let Trevor share the details of his project if and when he wishes but I will say that he is using different track castings that I have (more that one choice, we are spoiled!), different rail size and different frog numbers. All of that meant I was essentially creating the template from scratch rather than just copying the old reliable #6 I created many years ago.

After much googling for AREA standards, measuring castings with dial calipers (because my digital one’s battery up and died…), and poking about in the Templot menus, I achieved what I will call success. Because Trevor was mostly concerned about turnout geometry I forwent the refinements like shoving ties around, adjusting the length of guard rails and such.trackpad_screenshot

I got it done and printed out in time for delivery at via dinner at the Harbord House last Tuesday. Pub based delivery best delivery.

Want of a Nail

I have a bit of time off and I am aiming to make some progress on Comstock Road. With trackwork in (although still under test and adjustment) , I can start in on the scenery. But, you knew there was going to be one of those, I really can’t do much with any colour until I get the lights up since they won’t have the same qualities as the room fluorescents.

And here we get to the want of a nail angle:

  • Lights will be hung from the top pelmet which will frame the scene.
  • Light pelmet needs the ends of the backdrop (sidedrops? 😀 )
  • Backdrop ends need to go over the front and ends of the frames which need to have their final finish applied.
  • Final finish on the frame trim needs something to be matched to: the ground contours rendered in foam.

This isn’t the order I feel like doing things in but it is the reality imposed by my design choices. Inclinations notwithstanding, there are pieces of foam currently being held down by an assortment of paint cans as adhesive dries. I am hopeful that I can get the lights up in the near future.

Fixing The Last Turnout and Onward

Today I got the last “eighth” of the turnouts sorted. I resoldered the rail at the joint I broke loose last week, tweaked the alignment and aligned the servo. The servo alignment is good enough to work but just barely. I clearly goofed a bit when I sited the servo and bent the wire so maximum travel on one direction just gets to the stock rail. I will see how it holds up but for now, all of the trackage is operational.

I then set out to do a little cosmetic work on the trackage. It feels a bit odd to be working on purely cosmetic aspects of the track but I had to get there eventually. I started by filling in the ties around the front track baseboard joint where the rail is soldered to screws. I am not fussing over really tight fit since I expect things to get well buried in ballast and weeds. I am also using up scrap tie bits because who doesn’t save those for just such an eventuality! Nothing glued down in this shot, lower right bit is out of place for illustrative purposes.IMG_20190804_154937687

After a break for glue drying, I masked the front track’s surroundings and sprayed the track with the base brown colour (Rustoleum Camo Brown). Additional colouring is definitely in the cards since the result looks like commercial flex track. No point in putting all those spikes and tieplates in if nobody can see them. You can tell where the soldered screws are since the paint dries a lot slower on the solder than it does on everything else.IMG_20190804_194002504


87.5% Operational

Today I installed the links that complete the connection between throw bars and vertically rotating servo wires for the 3 remaining (of 4) turnouts. I bent them up on a (new) eye forming jig since I have lost track of the original one and mass produced the three before fitting them individually.IMG_20190728_140231745

Installation required measuring and bending a 90 degree bend to match up with the hole in the end of a throw bar. In two cases, I had to drill out the hole to clear the music wire. I must have missed those in the assembly process.

Once the links were installed and a break was taken to deliver the mother-in-law to a church service, I set about adjusting them with the handy dandy alignment board that Tam Valley sells to go along with the Octopus servo controller. All went well for two of the turnouts but the last did not align properly for the diverging route, one of the ones through the diamond. Further examination indicates that the stock rail is not diverging at enough of an angle to allow the business end of the point to lie flat against the rail. I think I know how the geometry has to change but making it happen will be “interesting”. I tried to bend things a bit in situ and ended up breaking the solder joint at the baseboard edge nearby. Another break to retrieve mother-in-law and cool off was in order!

In any case, before I bodged up the solder joint, I managed to have the loco visit all of the layout under power with only the occasional nudge required due to dirty track. I figure of the eight possible routes through turnouts, I can 7 work hence the title. Here is the star of the show exploring the track in front of the traverser.IMG_20190728_145430347

Trains or Brickwork?

Whilst we were in Kingston, Ontario on the weekend for a family event, we had occasion to stop at a Tim Horton’s outlet, as one does. Unbeknownst to me, my insufficiently deferential teens observed me standing in the parking lot, taking the subject photo. When the question was raised about what thing Dad might be photographing, the guess quickly came down to “trains or brickwork”. As we set off again, I began to expound about the photographic subject with its at least eight different sections of masonry and heard from the back seat: “Brickwork! Told you!” Hmmph!  Clearly I failed as a parent somehow. 🙂

In any case, here is the subject photo. masonrypotpourriFor those of you who, like me, do appreciate such things, you will note the wide variety of brick and stonework that has accumulated over the years. While I doubt that it had any direct railroad connection, the Grand Trunk(CNR) and Kingston & Pembroke Railways did run along the shoreline right past these buildings, all of which almost certainly dates from or before the railroad era. Modelling all this would be an interesting project.