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San Luis Valley Shelf Layout

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Posted by pt714 on Monday, May 3, 2021 7:57 AM

Well, it's time yet again to hit 'pause'.

I alluded a few posts ago to an upcoming move, and it has come time to fold up and box the layout again. Before doing so, however, I took an opportunity to break out my DRGW heavyweight observation and an old REA for a leaf-peeping excursion for folks in the southern part of the valley to see the new trees.

I removed the three primary buildings-- the grain elevator is too tall to fit with the layout folded, while the storehouse and oil facility cover the hinges. One tree is also still in need of finessing placement, so I removed it for now.

Then everything folded up, just like it has in the past. I was impressed how little scenery came loose. Lights and backdrop came down, too.

I'm really happy with the progress I've made here over the past 12 months. There are no bare spots, all of the industries are built up with pleasing detail (though resolution can always be increased) and the scenery is beginning to form individual scenes on this operational diorama. Hopefully it won't be too long before I can set everything up again and continue.

Until soon,

Phil

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Posted by pt714 on Monday, April 26, 2021 8:56 PM

Y'all are going to make me blush! Embarrassed

Thanks so much for the kind words, both of you. Rich, glad to hear you're liking these armatures too, I'm finding them pretty great for what I need, and excellent for learning quickly how to improve with tree-making. I've been impressed with what I've picked up from Scenic Express so far (the Super Leaf products are also theirs.)

Phil

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Posted by richhotrain on Monday, April 26, 2021 5:36 AM

pt714

An early holiday gift this year: Super Trees!

I have been playing around with building my own tree armatures and enjoying learning through the process, but I have to concede that these things look fantastic to my eye straight out of the box, unpainted, unflocked. The branch structure is gorgeous, and I think it'll be just right for my late autumn setting with some touch-up and very judicious flocking.

Right now I'm just playing around with placement of the bare armatures, using photos I've taken in the valley to figure out what looks right and trying not to overwhelm the overall sense of a high desert (the Super Trees box comes with what is probably, for me, a lifetime supply of armatures.)

My initial test-stuff-out tree on the right, the bare Super Tree on the left:

No contest. 

Phil, this was your post on December 22, 2020, absent the photos. It caught Kevin's attention, and mine, on January 2, 2021. So, when I read your most recent thread and looked at more of your photos, I asked myself, Who is this guy?

Your work is simply excellent, and I am sold on the trees. I only recently started to use Scenic Express products when I bought their real rock ballast for my current layout. But, now, you have me hooked on their Super Trees.

On my past layouts, I used Woodland Scenics trees which do not hold a candle to the Scenic Express product. There is a video on the Scenic Express website that illustrates how to work with Super Trees. It is impressive, and it is extremely informative.

Keep posting more photos of your work.

Rich

Alton Junction

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Posted by "JaBear" on Monday, April 26, 2021 12:33 AM
As I look out over the village, I see the trees turning with the season and while there are no cottonwoods or aspens, I think you’ve captured that autumnal look rather well, Phil.Thumbs UpThumbs Up
Right down to the mess that my neighbours’ leaves are making on my lawn!AngrySighLaugh
 
Cheers, the Bear.Smile

"One difference between pessimists and optimists is that while pessimists are more often right, optimists have far more fun."

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Posted by pt714 on Sunday, April 25, 2021 7:38 AM

NorthBrit

A new thread for me, Phil.   Love the trees.  So realistic.  Thanks for showing.

 

David

 

 

Thanks, David, appreciate you looking. I decided I liked the tree configuration and affixed them in place. On a more permanent layout I might not take that step since it makes it easier to replace them, but with this portable one it's easier to keep them as securely attached as possible (another move is coming up in a few months, this time thankfully not across the country but still a decent distance.)

Before permanently attaching them, though, I scattered dead leaves and debris at their bases to finish this "level of resolution" for the scene (they're never really done, are they? Smile, Wink & Grin)

 

Thanks for looking,

Phil

 

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Posted by NorthBrit on Sunday, April 11, 2021 6:45 AM

A new thread for me, Phil.   Love the trees.  So realistic.  Thanks for showing.

 

David

To the world you are someone.    To someone you are the world

I cannot afford the luxury of a negative thought

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Posted by pt714 on Sunday, April 11, 2021 6:03 AM

A lot of quiet on the layout front, as sometimes happens, but a long update for today-- the past few weeks I've been diving back into the tree game. A few months ago I ordered some Super Leaf dead litter-- I have used other Super Leaf products before and been happy with their look, and needed to expand my current color palette for my autumn trees (and for littering the ground, as well.)

A few tentatively-placed trees, trying out the colors and spacing. This time, I spray-painted the armatures before flocking (using some cheap tan spray paint), which I think makes them look even better.

I decided the varied brush between the creek and the grain elevator would have to come out, as the trees would take up all the sunlight-- I saved them and can use them to fill out the sparser treeless sections away from the creek.

The two types of trees that really scream "Colorado autumn", to me, are cottonwoods and aspens. Aspens typically grow a tad higher in elevation than the valley, but I'm making an exception because they make such a strong impression of place-- and quaking golden aspen trees are one of my favorite things in nature.

I spent time looking at photos of each, then took my entire Super Tree brush ball out of its box (quite the mess!) in search of the right shapes for armatures. I found an excellent thick, forked trunk for a big creekside cottonwood, and filled out its shape with some additional branches.

Then I sprayed the armature and set to my flocking technique: diluted glue for the "seed" golden yellow flocking at the tips of the branches, then layers of cheap hairspray and additional flocking, with a sprinkle each of dead Super Leaf to the underside and aspen yellow Super Leaf to the top, for dimension.

Aspens are a bit trickier, but in some ways more forgiving. They do not sprawl like cottonwoods, so the straight-growing ends of the Super Tree ball suit them best. Unfortunately these are quite spindly and delicate-- finding straight ones is a challenge, and there's a lot of surgery involved to remove the little twiggy leaves. Patience is key here.

I sprayed the armatures with cheap white spray paint, then hit them with passes of tan and white until I was satisfied with the color and variance. Followed that with the same flocking procedure as the other trees.

The wonderful thing about aspens is that they grow in patches like mushrooms, and often get in one another's way, so any trees that did not come out with the shape I wanted or that have trouble standing straight do not look out of place, and their flaws can be hidden by the crowd. The best-looking ones I planted in the clusters right up front.

There could be more detail on the bark, but the effect is immediate, and there's plenty of time to go back and add things like that. Nothing permanently attached yet, I'm still deciding if there need to be more of them, or a different placement to get the right effect. Once I have decided final placement, I'll add leaf litter to the ground and finish it before affixing the trees.

Thanks for looking,

Phil

 

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Posted by pt714 on Tuesday, January 5, 2021 5:54 PM

You're too kind, both of you. I've contributed regularly to Weekend Photo Fun in the past, I'll try to make a regular habit of it again. Smile, Wink & Grin

 

Phil

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Posted by richhotrain on Saturday, January 2, 2021 4:58 PM

SeeYou190

Phil: This has been a magnificent build thread. I think I have read the whole thing three times now.

I would love to see you share some pictures over in Weekend Photo Fun and/or Show Me Something.

Your work is amazing.

-Kevin

 

Totally agree.

Alton Junction

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Saturday, January 2, 2021 12:24 PM

Phil: This has been a magnificent build thread. I think I have read the whole thing three times now.

I would love to see you share some pictures over in Weekend Photo Fun and/or Show Me Something.

Your work is amazing.

-Kevin

Living the dream and happily modeling my STRATTON AND GILLETTE Railroad in HO scale. The SGRR is a freelanced Class A railroad as it would have appeared on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954, in my personal fantasy world of plausible nonsense.

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Posted by pt714 on Tuesday, December 22, 2020 8:06 AM

An early holiday gift this year: Super Trees!

I have been playing around with building my own tree armatures and enjoying learning through the process, but I have to concede that these things look fantastic to my eye straight out of the box, unpainted, unflocked. The branch structure is gorgeous, and I think it'll be just right for my late autumn setting with some touch-up and very judicious flocking.

Right now I'm just playing around with placement of the bare armatures, using photos I've taken in the valley to figure out what looks right and trying not to overwhelm the overall sense of a high desert (the Super Trees box comes with what is probably, for me, a lifetime supply of armatures.)

My initial test-stuff-out tree on the right, the bare Super Tree on the left:

No contest.

 

Thanks for looking,

Phil

 

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Posted by pt714 on Friday, November 27, 2020 7:02 AM

Thanks for the kind words Thomas, Kevin, and Mike, I appreciate it!

Thomas, I moved from there earlier this year, and already miss them, too.

No new photos to share, but hopefully some updates soon.

 

Phil

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Saturday, November 21, 2020 10:45 PM

pt714
Thanks for looking, Phil

Phil, that is a great picture.

-Kevin

Living the dream and happily modeling my STRATTON AND GILLETTE Railroad in HO scale. The SGRR is a freelanced Class A railroad as it would have appeared on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954, in my personal fantasy world of plausible nonsense.

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Posted by thomas81z on Saturday, November 21, 2020 8:40 PM

pt714

Thank you, Isaac! I started a new job recently, and layout progress has consequently temporarily paused, but I'm hoping to still make regular updates on it (and still playing around with the new camera.)

 

Thanks for looking,

Phil

i lived on the front range for 5 years and you have the right flavor

i miss those ranges

 

 

 

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Posted by pt714 on Wednesday, September 16, 2020 8:08 AM

Thank you, Isaac! I started a new job recently, and layout progress has consequently temporarily paused, but I'm hoping to still make regular updates on it (and still playing around with the new camera.)

 

Thanks for looking,

Phil

 

 

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Posted by SPSOT fan on Monday, August 31, 2020 6:00 AM

Wow! So very nice pictures! I really like the rural, branch line feel the layout has, with lots of yellower grass and not much ballast! Look forward to seeing more!

Regards, Isaac

I model my railroad and you model yours! I model my way and you model yours!

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Posted by pt714 on Friday, August 28, 2020 6:58 AM

I've been dissatisfied with the quality of the photos I've been taking for a while, feeling that they're not capturing the level of detail I'm trying to put into my projects. New phone and new camera this week, and already I'm feeling really excited because the photos are actually beginning to look like what I see sitting at the layout. (Of course, that's a double-edged sword, as I can see with much more focus where I still need to put in the work!) Here's some shots just from messing around with it during a recent switching session.

Thanks for looking,

Phil

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Posted by pt714 on Wednesday, August 19, 2020 8:21 PM

Thanks for looking and commenting, Rich! I don't mind the quiet, I've found it's pretty common for layout-in-progress threads if it's not a big pike with lots of planning involved. This is more of a place to keep a log of my projects, self-educating as I go, hopefully helpful and/or enjoyable to anyone who happens upon it.

Phil

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Posted by richhotrain on Wednesday, August 19, 2020 6:10 PM

Phil, I just stumbled onto this thread, and I have enjoyed browsing through it. Nice work! I am surprised that no one has replied as of late.

Rich

Alton Junction

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Posted by pt714 on Wednesday, August 19, 2020 6:02 PM

Can't believe what a difference a backdrop makes, even one designed to be temporary. This was stupid easy-- foamboard taped together, edges smoothed and then rather unevenly spray-painted with a very light matte blue. Already makes me want to set up more shots.

Phil 

 

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Posted by pt714 on Sunday, August 16, 2020 10:34 AM

One other thing I've been trying my hand at recently is improving the scenery. I model autumn, when the ubiquitous sagebrush is turning brown, the cottonwoods are losing their golden leaves and the nights are getting nippy. I've had success using 3M grey scrubbing pads to model sagebrush.

 

Because the branch structure is more exposed on dead and almost-dead brush, I also tried out some lightweight furnace filter material I found that behaves like polyfill, sprayed flat tan and then misted with flat sage green.

More flora added along the edge of the river, using a palette of furnace-filter sagebrush, WS-polyfill rabbitbrush, and various water-adjacent plants using flax and long static grass applied with tweezers in clumps:

I also took my first stab at modeling trees. I made armatures from local twigs, attaching them using CA gel and sprinkling with baking soda to make the seam invisible (a technique I learned from Luke Towan's videos.) Then I used some of the same furnace filter polyfill for the canopy, sprayed with Super77, and sprinkled on some cheap coarse ground foam that's too bright to use for anything else. I wasn't super happy with the results, even after trying to spray the foam to get a more believable color on the rightmost one:

I expected to write these off as practice trees, in any case-- it's a new technique for me, and I figured it would take a few tries. When I felt like I had a better grasp, I made an armature, sprayed it to attach the tan polyfill, wetted the ground beneath its canopy, then put it in place on the layout and sprinkled over it some yellow fine foam I collected from my WS polyfill-- whatever didn't stick to the branches dropped to the ground to give the fallen-leaf effect I wanted.

I went back with thinned glue to add more foam in a couple of spots, then cut the webbing of the polyfill all over the place with fine scissors at the top to better represent the ends of branches and avoid a 'netting' look (it's still not permanently attached to the layout, so the tree is leaning a bit in this first photo):

Last scenicking project was planting a long-dead tree at the edge of the river. I had several actual sagebrush twigs I'd saved from my last visit to the valley specifically for this purpose-- it's got a wonderfully gnarled texture that makes for a great trunk. Same CA/baking soda method used to get the shape I wanted from a couple of twigs:

 

Thanks for looking,

Phil

 

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Posted by pt714 on Sunday, August 16, 2020 10:03 AM

Last significant industry update is the small oil dealer, Upton Bulk Oil Supply-- a recent name I'm trying out, punning on the owner's contracting with Sinclair. This is the Walthers Trackside Oil kit, with its warehouse, office and truck pumps situated off-layout for space reasons (which conveniently freed them up to be cannibalized into the warehouse and structures across the tracks.) As with the potato storehouse, this industry needed to cover the layout's hinges, so it was built with three of its four vertical tanks and the pump house at the left end raised on an extended platform, a styrene base with wood siding and gravel top. The rightmost tank, the oldest (and only riveted one), sits at ground level next to a dock for inbound pallets of various lubricants arriving by boxcar. On the right end is the intake hose for inbound tank cars.

I took this close-up after finishing the dock, but prior to weathering the tank, painting the intake hose, and installing a few more details.

 

Thanks for looking,

Phil

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Posted by pt714 on Wednesday, July 29, 2020 7:04 AM

Next up is Mountain King Potatoes, which is a quasi-flat bashed from the warehouse/office buildings in the Walthers Trackside Oil Dealer-- this was mocked up before the move, to make sure it would be the right size to cover the back hinges.

(This old photo is gently nudging me about getting around to a proper backdrop again.)

The roof got the same treatment as the grain elevator-- sanded and replaced with aluminum tape corrugated roofing.

By splitting it in half lengthwise, I realized the building wouldn't be quite wide enough, so I planned to build a dock for it. Like the team track dock, this was made with balsa and basswood dipped in tea followed by iron acetate. The color variance was pretty dramatic!

I do like the look, but may tone down some individual boards a bit later with acrylic washes. The crossbeams are also pretty thin, since I used what I had on hand (equivalent to 2x2s)-- I may replace them in the future since that wouldn't be too invasive.

Once the dock was built, the next puzzle to solve was getting it and the building to mate seamlessly while also hiding the hinges.

For the uneven base, I ended up using a piece of paper towel wetted, draped over the hinges, then basically laquered in place with thinned Elmer's glue to get the contour right. With a little ground cover (grout, sand and plaster rock) the hinges are covered and the base disappears beneath the dock and structure.

The building would need to be raised so the doors matched the dock level-- I used stryrene supports to do that and built a wood retaining wall on the visible raised side. At the same time, I scored the front to make a corrugated siding pattern, and "replaced" a few of the panels with the corrugated aluminum tape to get a more uneven look. Weathering done with thin acrylic washes and Bragdon powders. 

The most recent addition has been lots of Tichy pallets, crates and burlap sacks.

Next eventual step is to detail the walls and use mirrors on the back side of the structure to increase the perceived space. Also need to plan out the office. 

Thanks for looking,

Phil

 

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Posted by pt714 on Tuesday, July 28, 2020 4:08 PM

There are four industries in my lazy, distant Center, CO that make the most of my ~15 pieces of rolling stock:

  • Center Grain Co., a small elevator that ships a boxcar of grain every now and then, and requires an idler flat to switch (a restriction on having Nell come too close to the building and throw sparks.)
  • Mountain King Potato Storehouse, which receives an occasional boxcar of burlap sacks for distribution and ships out many ART refrigerator cars full of potatoes
  • A still-unnamed small bulk oil distributor that receives Sinclair oil (both SDRX and UTLX tanks) and the occasional boxcar with pallets of lubricants
  • A team track dock, doubling as the pick-up stop for occasional passengers in this depot-less town at the end of the line.

Recent progress has focused on improving and augmenting the structures for all four industries. The team track dock was the only one really developed in any way before the move, but now all four are beginning to shape up.

I've been posting progress photos of Center Grain in Weekend Photo Fun-- this is the ubiquitous Walthers rural kit, with some modifications: first, I needed a less obvious color than the kit's stock crimson red (because when you have only eight square feet, a bright red structure really sticks out like a sore thumb!), so I took inspiration from the DRGW's in-house building colors and airbrushed all the sides buff yellow with oxide red trim. I then split the warehouse in half to reshape the main building with extra grain bin space (right side) and an office (left side):

I sanded the roof parts flat and added my own corrugated tin roofing, made from 3M aluminum tape cut to scale and grooved by pressing between styrene pieces. Weathering was done with a few acrylic washes and some Bragdon powders:

I outfitted the rail-side door with a drop-down extension for loading boxcars:

Name decal applied, modifying the letters that came with the Walthers kit:

There's still some work to do on the back side, but I can't continue until I make a backdrop and install it-- the load-in side is right up against that edge (at an angle, no less), and fitting all the doors will be tricky, so I'm waiting to do surgery until I know where's best to cut and decide how to blend it into the backdrop.

Thanks for looking,

Phil

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Posted by pt714 on Thursday, July 16, 2020 10:41 AM

I spent some time this week messing around with fencing. I tried a few things before settling on square toothpicks for posts (which come out to scale 7x7", a bit oversize but they don't look too out of place.) One kind of fencing I've seen in photos of the area along the tracks uses webbing on the lower half and a couple of straight, non-barbed wires, and I decided I like the look of it.

After some trial and error, here's what worked: I scribed the posts where I wanted to connect the top wires, then connected them with 32-gauge steel wire I had (from an art recycling store, I believe.)

Then I used window screen for the lower half.

I'll leave this first length in place on the layout for a little bit and see if it needs tweaking before making more lengths for other trackside spots.

 

Phil

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Posted by pt714 on Tuesday, July 7, 2020 11:04 AM

Hi everyone,

Wow, it's been almost two years since I last posted an update! Work ramped up for a while and then I made a cross-country move to North Carolina this spring, but for the first time in all the layouts I've created, I didn't have to dismantle my work and start again from scratch. The portable design was tested well-- folded up, wrapped with cardboard on all sides, shipped in a moving cube... and came out on the other side totally undamaged. I did have to discard the backdrop, but everything else came with me, including the LED strip lighting.

The layout is now on a desk with an overhanging bookshelf above providing a good display frame. Rail height is 34" and operated sitting from a chair. All the primary structures are up and I'm working on situating them, as well as laying ground cover and flora. Here are a couple of shots for now-- the in-progress central structures hiding the hinges (the dock for the storehouse was recently scratchbuilt):

And while switching-- the ground to either side of the tracks is all newly scenicked:

Thanks for looking,

Phil

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Posted by pt714 on Saturday, September 29, 2018 10:29 AM

It's been about a month and life swept me away from time to work on the layout for a little bit. But I did make some time to start on structure-building and a little scene composition. I bought two Walthers structure kits, the Trackside Oil Dealer and the Farmer's Co-op Grain Elevator, which should give me adequate plastic to bash into the structures I want to represent.

One of the challenges of a shelf layout this narrow is capturing the expanse of the prototype within a really small footprint. Most buildings will have to be flats (or almost-flats) in order to locate them realistically, especially along the runaround, but I'm playing with some ways to keep it interesting.

'Flat' doesn't necessarily mean 'parallel with the backdrop', and taking one or two buildings off the 'grid', just like running track at an angle to the benchwork, seems to work wonders for opening up some space. With so little room to work, though, I have to get creative:

I also made a raised area for the oil storage tanks, using some sheet styrene and framing it with weathered wood. Its purpose is to hide the hinges that allow the layout to fold up, on the nearside of the tracks (the ones on the other side will be hidden by a small, removable warehouse):

The tanks will sit atop this, with piping, fencing and a stairwell to reach it from ground level. I changed the rightmost tank into an older design by scraping off the welded seams and replacing them with Archer rivet decals:

Still a long way to go-- I sprayed all of these with some Testor's silver enamel as a base coat, but am waiting to do any more painting until I've decided on their location in the scene to provide the best views.

Prototype research: I did get down to the San Luis Valley this month (I make a trip there every year) and took some pictures in the right season for what I'd like to model, late September-early October.

Bonus: exploring south, I also saw Cumbres Pass with the aspen leaves changing, which was just gorgeous-- and the beauties that inhabit that stretch of the mountains are almost enough to pull me over to the narrow gauge side.

Thanks for looking,

Phil

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Posted by pt714 on Sunday, August 26, 2018 9:22 AM

This week, I spent my hobby hours on backdrops and lighting. With the layout so high up on its shelf, it was obvious as soon as I laid it out that lighting the space would make an immense difference. Again, everything has to be removable, so I bought a pack of 14"x22" cardstock-- heavy enough to take paint, light and flexible enough that I wouldn't need a lot of framing to keep it in shape like wallboard (which I used for my last layout's backdrop.) Maybe doing it again I would have looked for larger pieces, for fewer seams, but I made do-- and it's easy to fold up into a small space if I want to save it next time I move. I blue-taped it in place to check fitting: 

While building my previous layout, I found some awesome LED strips on Amazon, from a store called Lighting Ever. Each one is $8, comes rolled in a 5-meter (16.4 feet) single strand, and is cuttable to desired length with adhesive backing. I bought one of their warm white strands (about 3000K), which I remembered looked better to my eye than the daylight strands (I had bought both before, as well as red and blue strips to try different effects.)

I also bought some cheap blue spray paint at Home Depot for the sky color. At first, while outside spraying, I was worried that the color would be too 'aqua', but it toned down once I hit it with airbrush whites and greys, and it looks even better with the warm white LEDs in place. The seams maybe take away from the realism a bit, but for now they don't bother me too much.

The San Luis Valley is a flat, high desert flanked by mountain ranges, so I brush-painted the range in with acrylic once I had everything in place.

Thanks for looking,

Phil

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Posted by pt714 on Monday, August 13, 2018 8:49 AM

Yesterday, I decided to go ahead with some detail work on Nell that I had been putting off for ages. When I first got this brass PFM Ma&Pa 2-8-0, I made lots of modifications to it-- some structural (re-motoring, installing all-wheel pickup) and much cosmetic (swapping positions of the domes and bell, new headlight, Westinghouse cross-compressor replacing the stock single, scratchbuilding the doghouse.) These were all done about two years ago or so, but there were some details left out-- the ones that were most obvious to my eye were the small 'cowcatchers' that extend past the footboards, and the spark arrestor atop the stack:

  

Nell also had an identical pilot in the back, since she was never turned around on the SLC's 13 miles of track and made all her northbound trips in reverse.

I started out with a frame of square .040" styrene rod for the base, and planned to use .030" round rods crimped at the ends to make the guards. This worked well for the outer guards:

Quickly, though, I ran into trouble with the inner guards. They're supposed to bend in, beneath the coupler, and I found that I wasn't getting what I wanted with styrene, so I switched to solid wire (hard to keep totally straight, but more flexible.)

Even so, I was having trouble keeping the wires glued in place evenly and neatly. I wanted a design that would still leave the coupler boxes accessible should I need to replace them in the future, so I soldered together these little 'chips' to keep the guards in place:

 

This attaches to the coupler box cover, and the whole thing can come off as a unit with the cover.

The SLC used a number of different spark arrestors on Nell, some of which were quite ugly. This one shown in the photo above is the most elegant design (and the one which I believe she wore in 1948, my prototype year) so I decided to model that. I took mesh from a very fine tea strainer and cut it to size, then molded solid wire into rings to keep it in place:

After painting and touch-up:

Thanks for looking,

Phil 

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