Weekend Reading: Narrow Gauge Downunder

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One of the things picked up at NNGC 2019 was the previous year’s issues of Narrow Gauge Downunder magazine. I have been buying the occasional copy at my local train stores but not as regularly as I would like. They were at the previous NNGC I attended in Augusta, Maine a couple of years ago and my hope to see them this year was not in vain.

NGDU is the sort of magazine I enjoy. It combines non-trivial model construction articles and prototype articles of interesting subjects that I am utterly unfamiliar with. In addition to the cover layout, the pictured issue include an installment on Australian prototype sugar cane loading facilities where the cars are rolled on and off of trucks for their trips between railhead and plantation. There is nothing wrong with silver mining in Colorado but it is nice to see something different! NGDU does occasionally include Colorado narrow gauge lines. The authorship appears to go beyond the geographical boundaries implied by its’ title, too.

The modeling articles are generally top notch and include both how-to articles that go beyond the beginner level as well as some novel (at least to me) ideas. Even when the general techniques are familiar, the often novel subject being modeled makes things fresh.

I am working my way through last year and eagerly anticipating the arrival of the next issue. Since this will be the first of the subscription, I don’t know how much lag I will have to endure as the copy makes its’ way to Canada.

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.

Weekend Reading: In Search of Steam Donkeys: Logging Equipment in Oregon by Merv Johnson

IMG_20171118_165748271If I ever attempt a narrow gauge layout, it will almost certainly feature logging and In Search of Steam Donkeys by Merv Johnson is the reason why.  I don’t remember why I originally purchased this book but I am ever so glad I did.  It is just wonderful.

The “In Search of” title is a bit misleading since the author has obviously found steam donkeys in abundance or at least many beautiful black and white photographs of them.  The photos are supported by explanatory prose that explains what a steam donkey is and discusses the different types and their uses but doesn’t stop there.  There are illustrations of rigging, dimensioned drawings, historical accounts and anecdotes from first hand interviews.  And to top it all, there is even a section featuring some models.

This book is no longer in print but is available on the used market at somewhere around the original price.  If you model a mainline railroad and are attempting to avoid catching the narrow gauge bug, you should not buy this book.  Everyone else would do well consider buying it if the opportunity arises.