A common “tell” in model railroad photographs (and all macro photography, I suppose) is a shallow depth of field. Back in the early 2000’s my friend Chap and I put a fair amount of work into simulating this effect with both a real tilt-shift lens (Chap’s), and Photoshop filters.
As a follow-up to last week’s post about the new layout, I’ve created a short video to walk you around it and hopefully give a better sense of it than text and photos can.
In April of 2017 I attended my first operating session. For the uninitiated, an operating session is where a group of people get together to operate a model railroad as if it were a real railroad: usually you have a dispatcher, yardmaster(s), and a bunch of engineers. I was lucky to find a great operating group for my first session: they were helpful and encouraging. They also match my sensibilities about these things: they take it somewhat seriously, but not too seriously.
Over the years I have occasionally blogged about my model railroad hobby. In 2013 I established this site to document my second layout. The third layout didn’t get much publication. In 2016 I started my fourth layout and, in an effort to simplify my life, decided to post about that layout on my main blog.
Time off from work or school has long brought with it the promise and the pressure of making something cool – making progress with my projects. More often than not these breaks have yielded somewhat disappointing results in terms of productivity, and so exceptions like this past winter break stand out brightly.
We moved last summer, and with that move came an opportunity to build a new layout in a new space. I built three layouts at the old house (none of them got past track-on-plywood benchwork). The space in the new house is 32 feet long by 13 1/2 feet wide – wonderfully large, but it proved to be quite a challenge to design for. I think that smaller rooms have fewer options, especially with a larger scale like O. With a large (for me) room like this, the possibilities multiply.
I started cutting ditches and laying roadbed over the past couple weekends (I tweeted a photo). It’s gone fairly well but it’s tricky to get the center line of the track just right so that the roadbed matches up (the roadbed tears down the center and is applied to each side individually). I’m marking the center of the track on the foam base, which is error-prone because there’s this goofy center rail in the way.
This one’s for the heavy model train nerds, one of which I suppose I am slowly becoming. You have been warned.
Progress has been a little slow over the past few weeks – hard to find time to get down to the layout, and some tricky problems to solve. One bit of very good news, though: the backordered track arrived, so the main line loop is finally complete!
A cool Mac/iOS app called Calca came out this week. The basic idea is that you can mix mathematical expressions with Markdown-like text. The Mac version was an instant-buy for me. I was buying some LEDs for the layout this week and the seller said that you could find the required resistance for compensating for LED voltage vs supply voltage. So I made a Calca document:
It’s been a busy week! In particular, a very productive Saturday. This week I got serious about the signal tower project, as you may have seen a couple posts back: painting the interior walls black, then giving them a coat of off-white. Interior trim in brown. Wiring it up with warm white LEDs. Filling in the mortar lines (more on that later).
I’ve been doing a lot of little things lately where I’m taking pictures of progress and instead of making a post for each of those, or saving them for a big recap article, I’ve created a Twitter account where I’ll post such things: @imtzorr. You can follow layout progress and other railroad-related bits there.
A few weeks ago my wife and I had started work on the Atlas O Signal Tower model, the first plastic model I’ve built in probably twenty years. I am trying to “do it right” this time and not take any shortcuts, so when I realized that the walls were going to be so thin that any interior lights would make the walls glow, construction stopped and I headed to the hobby store to buy some paint.
Progress has been slow the past couple weeks. I was away from home for work, which didn’t help, but the bigger limiting factor right now is that I’m still waiting on the larger Atlas O curves I had ordered. The remaining switches arrived, which is good, but I have decided to make alternate arrangements for the curves. It’ll probably be another week before they get here. Even with my paper track stand-ins from the prior post, I’m reluctant to actually start doing much serious work beyond setting track on foam until the final pieces arrive.
As mentioned previously the landscape surface of my layout is going to be extruded foam, the pink stuff. In doing some tests I quickly found that there’s a significant amount of operating noise when putting the track (I’m using Atlas O) directly on the foam and rolling my heavyweight O gauge passenger cars on it. I ran a series of tests with the following materials, from top to bottom:
Overhead/room lighting for the layout is something that I want to take much more seriously with this time around. With the last one I was hoping that the room lighting would be enough (it wasn’t), but honestly I didn’t give it that much thought. With this layout, since I won’t be able to climb on it, I needed to come up with a lighting strategy before continuing much beyond basic benchwork construction or I wouldn’t be able to reach the ceiling very well.