Sunday, November 22, 2015

Syracuse, On the Horizon

Scenery on the Onondaga Cutoff has been an organic sort of learning experience.  I am learning as I go, and the vision for how I want it to appear is changing as I learn new techniques, and indeed also as I figure out where the railroad actually would have run.

The most recent development with that has been a new addition to the scene at CP-282.  Now that I have plotted out the route on the USGS quadrant maps, the railroad can develop a more true sense of place.  The route exits Ram's Gulch south of Syracuse and makes a turn to the north, where suddenly the Syracuse skyline appears on the horizon.  I took the photo earlier this fall (special thanks to Nancy at the Brighton Tower Apartments!) and then had a large print made.  I trimmed the sky away, sprayed the remainder with dull coat, and mounted that on black art paper with a thick homemade black art-board frame. Here's the view during the afternoon - to me, this really adds an amazing depth to the scene.

Since we run operations around the clock, I wanted the skyline to be illuminated at night.  It took a lot of thinking, discussion, and trial-and-error construction, but I eventually found a combination of LEDs and incandescent bulbs that when mounted through the backdrop gave a convincing glow.  Forgive the grainy iPhone images - this is much more convincing in person!

I trimmed the black backdrop paper out from beneath the buildings, so that the entire city would have a glow to it from ambient light, as cities do to our eyes.  Here's a closer view showing the windows I cut through the photo, allowing more pointed light to show at the correct spots:

Those familiar with Syracuse will recognize the Carrier Dome on the right, and other buildings at Syracuse University including 22-story Lawrinson Hall, where I lived for the first two of  my four years at SU.  The downtown proper is further to the left (west) with the MONY Towers and Verizon buildings as key features.  

The operations on the Onondaga Cutoff, especially those at night, just got a little more prototypical!

Happy Thanksgiving to you all, and best wishes into the Holiday Season!



  1. This is fricking incredible. Way beyond "model RR". Can't wait to see it in person!

  2. Dude, this is amazing. I want to live in your layout.

  3. I don't quite understand how you achieved such a realistic lighting effect at night. Would you mind posting some photos of the areas where you cut out and lit to provide the right lighting effect? Are the lights behind the photo backdrop or in front?

    1. Matt, Alex, Laura, many thanks for the comments!

      Matt - I will make a few images to show how it came together, yes. The lights are mounted through the masonite backdrop, which is then covered by the photo. The entire photo has the black paper backing except the city scene, so there is a glow to the buildings from the lights behind the print. The windows were individually cut out for the effect of rooms with lights turned on.

  4. Wow - very very impressive! And a great technique! I'm not planning on a lighted skyline, but I have to do something similar with Hartford, CT. Unfortunately, I model 1947 so getting an appropriate photo is next to impossible. You've achieved some really amazing depth in your scene, for sure!