Friday, August 26, 2016

Backdrop Update...and Keeping Busy

Well, I took the plunge, and finally ordered a photo backdrop for all of the Onondaga Cutoff!

After extensive research online and discussing with other layout owners, I decided to work with Backdrop Warehouse ( due to the quality of their base photographs and their ability to allow a 'mockup' on their website so that I could roughly see how things would come together.  The backdrop will run over about 90 feet of existing Masonite.  I chose scenes that blend in with photographs of the area, and compared that to the Google Earth street views as necessary.

I decided to call the printer directly, using the number on the site, and spoke with Neil several times to get the order put together the way I needed it.  He was able to build transitions for me between scenes based on actual photographs and it will add tremendously to the atmosphere in the layout space.  The lead time is several weeks - I will update this blog with entries on installation here soon.  Exciting developments!

While we await the arrival of the new backdrop, I have taken time to work with Jack to finalize the track layout on the Cazenovia Industrial Track.  Once it was set, I glued the track in place and installed all the wiring needed to power it up.

Here above we have the west switch for the runaround track.  I used old, beat-up switches I had in my scrap box for this project, and glued the track directly to the painted plywood.  This will be buried in mud and ballast in spots, suggesting an old and lesser-maintained piece of railroad.

Using older switches saved me a lot of money and also allowed me to model track that has seen better days.  In this photo the switch is installed and weathered with Rail Brown spray paint.  After this photo was made, I used a Caboose Industries ground throw with the built-in single-pole double-throw electrical contacts, so that I could power the frog.  Slow speed means more potential for stalls, so extra work is needed to prevent that.

This view above shows the  main line up to the left, looking east towards Fayetteville, and the industrial track coming out beneath it.  Once the new backdrop is up, scenery here can begin in earnest, especially since all track is now in place.  It was a nice change of pace to get back to track laying.  After 8 years, there isn't too much more track to lay!

This is a view looking the other direction at the same spot.  The switch to the left will be the spur for a scrap and recycling dealer.  A photo backdrop will greatly enhance this location.

Staying busy laying track and dropping feeders for each rail has filled a week already, and will be work I am glad is done once the backdrop arrives.  I am looking forward to the dramatic change that a photo backdrop can provide.  Get ready for a big upgrade on the Onondaga Cutoff!


Monday, August 15, 2016

Back to Ballasting

It has been a nice hot and humid August so far in New Jersey, and despite outdoor chores and family commitments that makes for a good reason to spend some time in the cool and dry basement.  Recently I spruced up some of the scenery near the Iroquois plant by adding ballast and some basic scenery.

Worth noting here is how much the color of the ballast changes during the installation process.  The image above is how it looks once it has been installed and glued in place, and then left to dry for 24 hours.  The final product here is a nice approximation of the color mix on the Chicago Line.  However, getting to this point took some experimentation.  The mix is dusty out of the bag and looks too white, and then during the process to set and glue the ballast, it looks too dark - see below!

With the dramatic changes in color, getting started with ballast was a leap of faith as it would have been a big setback to have to remove the entire track structure to re-ballast it should the color have not worked out.   As a review I have settled on Arizona Rock & Mineral 'UP-Silverton Grey' mix, with a bit of 'NYC' limestone mixed in for some variety.  The cinders are from the 'Southern Pacific Yard Cinder' product, and they make a nice blend along the right of way.

Here you can see the difference between freshly ballasted track to the left, and weathered-but-unballasted track to the right.  This is the location of a highway scene coming soon, which will be installed over the unballasted track, hiding it from view at this location so as to add distance to the mainline run.  The temporary cardboard view blocks here will (thankfully) disappear with that installation.  

In other news, the new spur down to Blue Circle Cement is going in, and so far has turned out well.  I have a few more switches and lengths of track to glue in place and we will then be able to wire it up for operation within the next few weeks.  

Backdrop research continues and a purchase will be made soon, starting that process for the fall. The installation of the backdrop will be a startling visual change for the entire layout area.  I'm looking forward to it!