Sunday, January 17, 2021

Scenery for Berkshire Junction Part 4

Forestry complete

Making and planting Super Trees is completed for now. It took a full value case of Super Tree material, 2 quarts of the "Cheshire Branch" foliage blend (1 part #T1346 "weeds" and 2 parts #T1349 "green blend" of Woodland Scenics fine turfs) and 3 cans of Aqua Net hairspray. Not sure how many trees that made but it filled in the scene enough that it is pleasing to my taste. Some static grasses have been added. 

Lots more to do next, the foreground area between the tracks and front of the scene needs vegetation and a facia installed. Some electric cabinets, a phone box and other details will finish up.

Below are some photos of the scene with the planted trees.

RS-3 #555 idles with NE-5 caboose #555 on Stearns siding, these were the first to run into the scene since scenery work started, needed a photo mark the occasion.


Friday, January 1, 2021

Scenery for Berkshire Junction part 3

Realism to strive for

I have long admired the scenery depicted on my friend Jim Dufour's Cheshire Branch layout, particularly the trees. Like mine his layout is set in New England and requires lots of trees. A photo of the model trees on a portion Jim's layout below are an example of the true to life realism I would like to be able to achieve.

            Jim Dufour Photo

Those unfamiliar with Jim's layout may see photos of his modeling in Prototype Railroad Modeling Volume Four from Speedwitch Media and soon in Model Railroad Planning 2021 from Kalmbach. A search for Boston & Maine Cheshire Branch Model Railroad by Jim Dufour with come up several videos of his layout.

Berkshire Junction foliage

Berkshire Junction was a remote tree lined and weedy location as indicated by a prototype photo taken during the era of the layout. This is the look that I would like to approximate, it will be a new and interesting modeling challenge for me.

No short cut

I have dreaded and put off making the large number of trees that will be necessary for the layout since first deciding to model the New Haven Berkshire line. I enjoy modeling all things man made, but not so nature. The few individual trees I made for the Danbury diorama are pleasing but were time consuming to make. The thought of making many hundreds more individual examples prompted trying some time saving short cut methods but the results failed to be realistic even when I tried to convince myself that the were. Individual trees made one at a time from Super Trees armatures sold by Scenic Express will be the best way forward for my layout. 

Tree production begins

Jim noted that his spray and sprinkle tree making method is no different from many other modelers but offered much needed encouragement, tips and the basic tree foliage blend used on the Cheshire Branch to get my tree production started, I sincerely thank him.

I find this production tree making is actually quite simple once getting over procrastinating about it. The Super Tree armatures are first sprayed flat black from a rattle can then set aside for a day, this was done on an outside work bench.

Next is the spray and sprinkle part. Aqua Net extra super hold hairspray is used as an adhesive to quickly affix the foliage blend to the tree armatures, this hair spray is labeled as "unscented" but it is surely not plus flammable, this is also best done outside. Apply the hair spray onto the branch part of the armatures first then sprinkle the foliage blend onto the branches, quick respray, done, fantastic!

The Cheshire Branch foliage blend of 2 Woodland Scenics fine turfs is, 1 part #T1346 "weeds" and 2 parts #T1349 "green blend". These were purchased in the 1qt shaker containers, emptied and blended thoroughly in a larger clean plastic container then returned to the shaker containers for use.

I did modify the sprinkle part to a "spray a squeeze" method. I find that sharply squeezing the plastic shaker container propelling the blend onto the armatures works better for me. I do this over the deep clean plastic container below, a lot of material comes out with each squeeze but the excess is captured in the container. After 5 or so trees the excess blend is pored back into the shaker container and the squeezing continues, there is very little waste.

Planting trees

The Berkshire Junction diorama is 17' wide but only has a 9" vertical opening. With this limited opening the foam board land forms are better completed on the inside workbench where there is more room before permanently installing them on the layout.

I find that sitting at the bench planting the trees into the land forms, arranging/re-arranging them easy and kind of fun after all the trepidation about this job. 

After a pleasing arrangement is reached two additional colors of Woodland fine turfs #T1344 "burnt grass" and #T1342 "earth" are lightly sprinkled randomly on a few trees for a color variation then all the trees are sprayed with matte medium for a permanent set. 

Tree making out side was shut down recently by a snow storm, but it has mostly melted and work will now continue.

The land forms have been returned to the layout for a check to see how they look so far and to take the below photo. I like the Cheshire Branch blend colors and think they look good under the 5000K layout lighting. 

I am also pleased how the trees on the dividing hill between the Maybrook main in the rear and the Berkshire line in the foreground now accentuates the "junction" of Berkshire Junction.

Will post more photos when trees are completed.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Scenery for Berkshire Junction part 2

Additional structures

The below photo of Berkshire junction shows there were two additional small railroad structures near signal station199 and coal shed, these are circled in red. This photo came to my attention at an opportune time when they can be modeled and blended into the scene before any foliage is applied to the foam board terrain. Thanks to Chris Adams of The Valley Local for sending this timely photo. A note about this photo, there was a large structure in the left of this photo that has been edited out for clarity because on the layout that structure would be operators aisle therefore not modeled.

The two additional structures have been modeled and will be blended into the terrain before adding foliage to the foreground scene, prototype photo above shows this area very grassy/weedy.  

Base ground cover

A basic ground cover has been added to the terrain against the backdrop and the separating hill between the Berkshire line in the foreground and the Maybrook line behind the hill in the below and previous photo.

The foam board terrain was painted with a flat dark green color then covered with black poly fiberfill. Woodland Scenics #T1341 earth and #T1344 Burnt Grass Fine Turfs are sprinkled randomly over the poly fiberfill and affixed with a spray of matte medium thinned 4:1 with water.

Next is to add trees. This scene needs trees, a lot of trees! Made a small start in the far distance in the above photo, more on adding the trees next time.

Monday, December 7, 2020

Scenery for Berkshire Junction

Berkshire Junction is the eye level scene when entering the layout room. This un-landscaped diorama has remained a first impression disappointment too long!

Moving forward from the plywood

Getting started with some initial terrain ideas with extruded foamboard below. 

With some of the foamboard glued in place, next carving and sanding to shape simulating the prototype terrain. 

Fitting signal station 199 and coal shed into the right of way embankment.

Next a coat or two of Sculptamold to make the terrain flow together. 

Finally a base coat of earth color as a foundation for the vegetation.

Moving right along now working on shaping the remaining foamboard.    

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Motor Coach # 4073 Part 2

Truck side frames

The Custom Brass truck side frames are removed from the original brass trucks to be affixed to the Stanton drives.

Once the side frames are removed from the original truck the back side (#2 in the photo) is filed flat for a smooth surface to glue a .010" piece of styrene to, ACC was used for this (#1 & #3). The affixed styrene was trimmed to the contours of the frame and filed smooth (#4).

A styrene block is affixed to both sides of the Stanton drives with styrene cement.

A .100" spacer block is used under the truck side frame to keep the side frame level and at the correct height for glueing the styrene backed side frame to the styrene block previously affixed to the Stanton drive.

The trucks have been mounted to the new floor plate in the photo below. There is no sound decoder I know of for this motor coach so a base decoder will be used.

The decoder tucks nicely behind a roof brace, the wires will run between the floor plate and the roof thru the restroom that will be enclosed so no wires will be seen thru the windows on the finished model.

Underbody equipment

These motor coaches have lots of underbody equipment, replicating all the equipment visible in the two photos below will be a challenge! Maybe this is why the model as built by Custom Brass had so little underbody detail.

I have no knowledge of what all this underbody equipment is or what functions they perform,  I will replicate what is see as best as possible.

I believe the equipment with the letter "A" below is a blower to cool the traction motors. If anyone knows the nomenclature or function of the numbered items below please leave a comment!

 Black and white photos by J. W. Swanberg

This is a long term project and may be a while before the underbody is completed.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Motor Coach # 4073

Motor coach # 4073 was 1 of 104 last design heavyweight multiple unit (MU) coaches built for the New Haven Railroad. Built by Osgood Bradley during 1926 this car is 1 of the 40 trailer coaches of this round roof design to be converted to a powered motor coach using Westinghouse electrical components at the New Haven's Van Nest shop in the Bronx, New York.

Although these motor coaches were rated to pull 3 unpowered trailer coaches, on the Danbury Connecticut - South Norwalk Connecticut shuttle only a single motor coach was used for that scheduled train during the era of the layout.

           Motor coach # 4073 at Danbury Connecticut station 1957. Photo by J. W. Swanberg     

             Again at Danbury this time 1959. Photo by J. W. Swanberg

Model #4073

Custom Brass had at one time offered a three car set of these MU cars consisting of 1 powered motor coach and 2 trailer coaches. Like the prototype photos above, only the motor coach from this set will be used on the layout to model the Danbury - So. Norwalk shuttle.

The body shell from the Custom Brass set appears to be accurately modeled although it lacks some roof and car end details that will be added during the build.

The used Custom Brass set purchased was well cared for but ran poorly with the factory motor and gears that had cracked from age. The motor powering the model filled a good portion of the interior seating area and was unrealistic when looking thru the side windows.

Stanton Drives from NorthWest Short Line will re-power the model improving the running qualities and eliminate the unsightly motor in the interior.

The greatest shortcomings of this model are the lack of interior but more importantly correct prototypical underbody details, this is where the most time and effort will be consumed during this build. 

Below is the motor coach as purchased with the pantographs and original drive motor removed from the interior. 

Re-powering the motor coach

Two Stanton Drives are used for the re-power. Although unlikely for this layout, the decision to use two drives is incase pulling of trailer coaches will be desired in the future.

The Stanton Drives are below, the molded on coupler mounts (left) will not be used and cut off  (right).

The first problem to solve during this build is when the Stanton drives are mounted underneath the original brass floor plate the ride height of the body shell is too high and the plate is not level end to end, therefore a new floor plate with wells for the drives to recede into is required to lower the ride height. The replacement floor plate below is made from .040" styrene, recess openings are cut into each end to accept the new drives.

The drives will need to recede .030" thru the floor plate for the correct ride height of the body shell and couplers. Below a .030" styrene spacer is glued to each side of the opening on the interior side of the replacement floor plate. 

A .040" styrene drive mounting plate is glued on top of the .030" spacers and a hole to accept the center pivot point of the drive is drilled. The open area to the left of the mounting plate in the below photo is for the drive wiring to move freely when negotiating curves.

The interior side of the original brass and replacement styrene floor plates are compared below.

The styrene floor plate is flexible end to end at this point when not mounted to the body shell. The body shell below has a brass angle soldered to the inside of both car sides to mount the original brass floor plate.

When the new styrene floor plate is mounted onto these angles as seen below it becomes sufficiently stiff enough to replace the brass plate.

Body shell mounted on replacement floor plate with Stanton drives installed to check ride height.