Saturday, February 28, 2015

Trial & Error: Scenery Progress

As life settles in at home with the new baby starting to gain some regularity in his schedule, I have spent a few minutes each evening just before bed pondering the scenery on the Onondaga Cutoff.   As a civil engineer it is relatively straight forward to lay track according to a plan, and to make adjustments on the fly regarding alignment or configuration.  It is far less straight forward to build good-looking scenery!

Thanks to the discussion earlier this month about the actual location of the route the Onondaga Cutoff would follow, it was obvious that the scenery at Onondaga Yard and at CP282 would need to change.  While I had painted the backdrop to suggest far-off hilltops, in 'reality' the route passes through a narrow valley at this location.

The first step was to paint a dark green layer onto the backdrop to suggest a bluff several hundred feet high.  The green was a nice start, but the vertical backdrop took away from the profile view - it was obvious this wasn't a hill.  So, I used cardboard to add a slope to the backdrop.

I then painted that the same dark green to minimize any chance of it showing through once the tree 'puffs' were added.  I made the tree tops from polyfiber and course turf, following some good advice in Model Railroader magazine.  I made 6 trays of about 40 trees each, and I only finished about 7 linear feet!  More is needed but the effect is excellent:

I'm pleased with this treatment of backdrop and am excited to keep moving on that front!  The other current question is what ballast mix to use for the yard tracks in Onondaga Yard.  Here's a quick shot with the main tracks on the right, and the South Runner on the left with a darker mix.  I feel this is too speckled, and the base too black - appropriate for the 50's or 60's maybe, but not for a more modern facility.  My hunch is that a dark grey base is better for a yard in the 1990's.

Thoughts are always welcome!

The winter is lasting a long time this year, with more than a foot of snow on the ground for over a month at this point, and with another 4-8 inches expected this week.  It allows for more time modeling and for that, I am thankful!


Monday, February 9, 2015

The Consequences of Plausibility

One of the fun challenges about building model railroad is trying to fit a model of reality in a space that has different boundaries than those that govern the prototype.  This applies to any prototype-based model railroad, whether of a specific prototype or not - there are few modelers with the available space to produce a scale model of a yard or even an interlocking.   The key for us who are creating the model railroad is plausibility:  making as many scenes as we can as believable as possible.

And so, as scenery continues to develop on the Onondaga Cutoff, I have started to look for ways to do just that.  It turns out that the actual geography of the fictional Cutoff needed to be re-imagined! This railroad is operated as a southern bypass around Syracuse, NY, and as I started to really study some local topographical maps to see where the railroad would have run, it was obvious some of the scenes would have to change to correspond with where the mileposts would fall.

Here is a scan of several quadrants of topographical map for the City of Syracuse, circa 1947.  Click on it for a full size view.  I have used photo software to overlay a bold black line showing the approximate alignment of the Onondaga Cutoff, aligned to follow the topography of the area to minimize earthwork needed for construction.

Following the development of the prototype routes in the area in the 1930's, the OC would have been modernized with grade separation through the South Side of Syracuse.  To the right, you can see where Onondaga Yard would be located, as well as the junction with the M&E, which would a new connector to join the right of way of the former Lackawanna's Syracuse Branch and run south towards the fictional Doelger Brewing Company brewery and Euclid Yard.  Just off this map to the right is Fayetteville, and therefore what we had previously been calling Camillus, NY will be relabeled Fayetteville to add to the plausibility of the whole concept.   The Cutoff then continues across that plain out towards its junction with the Chicago Line east of Kirkville, NY.

These sorts of mental exercises help me to build a convincing story for the model railroad, which in turn helps to focus attention on aspects that add to the operating experience.  Sometimes, as we learn more about our prototype, we need to make changes.  That's the chance you take when you're trying to create a plausible prototype!