Friday, November 10, 2017

M420 in Villeneuve in the late 1980s

One of the most obvious joy of adding scenery is to be able to photograph your models in context. As great a model and it's weathering can be, poor photographing condition will always results in poor results.

I recently took advantage of scenic improvement in Villeneuve to shoot a few set of picture of my highly speculative M420 kitbash. It is also a good way to analyse my work on grass and see what can be improved and what worked. This is probably one of the best motivational factor in continuing working on the layout.

A d just for fun, some older motive power...

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Ciment St-Laurent - Part 4

I finally settled down on a structural design for the cement plant model. My key objectives were strong structure, accessibility to add details over time and as much as possible, a decent level of prototypicalness.

I certainly could build the actual structure as it was with beams and columns. However, since it would be made out of several different parts, I fear alignment problems. A base and a top board seems to me a better way to ensure a certain level of squareness. It also gives some room in case of slight variation on column height. And finally, both board can be drilled at the same time, clamped together for maximum accuracy.

It must be noted I'll probably need to brace the building in some way. Under each group of silos existed a central core that housed equipment. I'll probably use them to make sure the structure is braced sufficently. The weight of the ABS silos and the upper storey shouldn't be underestimated.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Ciment St-Laurent - Part 3

Huge structures are always something I fear… and for a good reason. Their sheer size means they have to be structurally strong enough to support themselves and not sag. For building like Ciment St-Laurent, it can quickly become a nightmare since the silos are supported by concrete columns. Add to that, conveyors, walkways and various equipment, all nested under the silos and visible under normal operating conditions, and you get the recipe for quite a headache.

Ciment St-Laurent in Villeneuve circa 1974 (source: unknown)

The proof, I’ve drawing and redrawing this building for years now and was never satisfied. Fortunately, a fellow modeller from Montmorency sent me a set of pictures taken in the mid-1970s. One of them was an almost perfectly framed photo of the main elevation.  This picture helped me to finally understand how the engineers designed the structure back in the fifties. Finally, the beams and columns started to align perfectly with the silos they were supporting and the track alignment made sense.

Ciment St-Laurent - Scale Drawings

I must admit nothing is more rewarding than contemplating a well-crafted set of plans and I certainly want to tip my hat to the men that built this cement plant. As mundane the subject was, the great care to optimize the various components gave rise to an emblematic plant that had genuine architectural merit. Most cement plants are ugly ducklings; nothing more than materialized industrial process. But I’m pretty convinced Ciment St-Laurent wanted its production site, located on one of the major road of the time before the highway boom of the 1960s, to be a flagship. And they did succeed. For proof, I recall a set of professional pictures shot in the mid-1950s showing the cement plant under extremely artistic angles. It was beautiful and could have made any photograph exhibits in town. Unfortunately, that a big part of corporate pride no longer exist and it’s why I want to be sure my model will live up to the prototype.

I certainly wish to quickly find out a way to build this model in an efficient way.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

More Grass in Villeneuve

Another session of grass application in Villeneuve went by last Thursday evening. The last stretch of ditches was completed up to D’Estimauville Avenue, helping to unify the vista all over the room.

I also experimented with short and well-groom grass on flat areas. In the past, my attempts were clumsy and too contrasted to look credible. Yellow dead grass was applied right beside green one. This time, to get a more toned down look, I randomly mixed for grass colors together in the grass applicator. To make sure the grass would be randomized, I didn’t bother blending the color to much in the grass applicator.

Also, instead of applying grass in one pass, I did it in three passes. I also made sure to add ground foam and leaves here and there to give relief and variability in grass height.  When color was too uniform or blended badly with the ditches, another specific pass was done on relevant spot. This randomness, a key feature of nature, ensured the very long stretch of grass wouldn’t look like a grass carpet.

Later, small weeds, bushes and trees will be sparingly added to the scene for some extra variation. Looking back at my first experiments with grass in Clermont make them pale in comparison. I’ll certainly have to redo many parts here and there.

I also want to change the overall scene transition a little bit in Villeneuve as progress is made. Among the changes, I rescinded the parking lot in d’Estimauville, finding it a little bit a gimmick. I’m also seriously thinking about merging Maizerets into Villeneuve as a large and flowing scene. I’m not that much a fan of staging a train that reaches its destination while the caboose in still in stating.

I’m not sure how I’ll do it, but with Jérôme, we have started to analyze some spots along the line in Villeneuve that could be suitable. Interestingly, a set of bridge similar to the one in Maizeret does exist not far from the cement plant. Also, I’d like to bring back a feature of my original design: a road parallel to the track just like the prototypical Boulevard Sainte-Anne that follow the line for at least 20 miles. Failing to show this feature seems to be missing a key element of Murray Bay Sudvision. If it wasn’t a matter of access, that road would have been modelled in front of the cement plant too.

To be blunt, I’m getting sick of vignettes, cameos and other forced theatrical devices in layout planning. I’m not against any of them when they are used with parsimony, to bring life or to better capture the sense of a prototype. However, constantly including references and “clins d’oeil” ends up like a botched Hollywood movie in which every trick of the trade must be put on film as if it was shouting “hey, it’s ME!!!!”… Murray Bay Subdivision is too much a simple place to start adding more stuff around. At some point, you break the suspension of disbelief. And mark my words, I’m starting to think the diesel era modelling has far less room in that regard. Steam era infrastructure was extent and everywhere. Every mile, every location, had its bunch of stuff laying around. However, in modern time, railway infrastructure had been greatly streamlined and reduced while trains got longer. If you continue to add stuff mindlessly, you quickly depart from that feeling of vast and somewhat empty space, particularly for main lines and branch lines.

So, bottom of the barrel, since our layout is nothing more than a magnified shelf switching layout, I'm starting to think each room should be treated as one large location instead of a collection of loosely tied together scenes. Most people will scream "Oh no!" but personally, it makes more sense and I feel I'm not trying to cheat myself with nonsensical geography.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Grass in Villeneuve

It's been a while since I posted something related to our current layout. But last Thursday was a good occasion to make substantial progress in Villeneuve, including the ditches.

As you can clearly see, the ballasting process is nearing completion. It really helps to blend the tracks onto the layout and make the yard much more impressive.

I'm also quite satisfied with my homemade ballast. I think I finally found a recipe that works well for my prototype and that can be easily altered to fit a particular track, be it main line or siding.

Work also resumed on scenery with a new wood retaining wall made out of stained matches. This spot will hold a relay box as per prototype. The still water in the ditches is simply MDF painted with dark brown and black paint blended on spot.

Grass was put by hand directly on fresh paint and white glue. Nothing fancy, but once again, I was working with prototype pictures of Villeneuve shot in the mid-2000s in the right season. Before applying the grass, some vegetal debris, green scenery foam to represent small plants and other bulk material were sprinkled to give texture to the soil.

Keep in mind this is only the first pass. Some small shrubs and more grass need to be added, however, I'll wait both grade crossings are done before the final touch.