Friday, November 16, 2012


With the subroadbed panels built and the backdrop spine fabricated and basic sky treatment painted, the time has arrived to begin laying track!  I had planned to begin in Oakridge, but chose instead to begin in Springfield, the middle of the three station locations in the current construction.  Springfield will use conventional cork roadbed (Midwest Cork), whereas Oakridge and Eugene Depot have sheet cork installed.  Springfield actually serves as a better prototype installation for the rest of the railroad. 

The 12” floor grid was transferred up to the subroadbed panels.  A four-feet long level served as a plumb bob for the transfer and a straight edge for connecting lines.  Once the 12” grid was lined onto the subroadbed panels, sections of the full-size track plan, with the same grid drawn on them, were moved up to the table top.  A little bit of fiddling was required, but the important dimensions were preserved.  Once the station siding end switches were located, much of the rest was simply filling in between those points. 

Track was then laid out on top of the full-size plan, beginning with the switches.  I am using Micro Engineering Code 83 on the main and Code 70 for everything else in Springfield.  For turnouts (switches), I am using Micro Engineering for #6 switches, used for most anything not on the mainline or impacting the mainline curvature.  An example of the latter is the mid-station cross-overs that connect a siding on the south side of the main to the drill tracks on the north side of the main. 

I will fabricate #8 turnouts (switches) for the mainline switches.  I have Fast Tracks jigs for the #8 turnouts, but will use a hybrid construction technique for these very visible turnouts, employing Central Valley switch tie kits for most of the ties, replacing appropriate ones with printed circuit board ties.  Joe Fugate demonstrated most of this in his article in the September 2011 issue of Model Rail Hobbyist (  For the #8 turnouts, it looks like the full Fast Tracks jig can be used for at least the ties and rail around the frog. 

As I’ve noted previously, the Springfield plan developed into a very interesting switching area during full-size track planning.  The track schematic shown below illustrates this.  The plan is inspired by the 1977 SPINS (Southern Pacific Industry Numbering System) diagram for Springfield.  Most of the track on either side of the mainline in 1977 will be present.  I trimmed out a third drill track for Rosboro Lumber and added or modified several tracks at the RR-East end of Springfield.  Notably, I added switch leads on both sides of the mainline.  I also moved Borden Chemical to service off the siding and switch lead.  It actually diverges from the mainline, but there is a high incentive, particularly on a CTC railroad, to moving as many industry spurs to switches off sidings rather than the main.  I added a spur RR-East of the depot, off the house track, to service a yet-to-be-determined industry.  The space was there, just begging to be used.

Springfield track layout viewed from RR-East end.  Springfield rock quarry (gondola on spur) and Rosboro Lumber (pair of boxcars) are in the foreground.

The Marcola Branch diverges from the RR-West end of Springfield.  On my layout, the Marcola Branch is not very long, but it does curve around to the other side of the backdrop, separating it visually from most of Springfield.  The branch features a pair of tracks for interchange with Weyerhauser Lumber—a major traffic source.  Three additional industries have spurs or a siding off the “Marcola Main.”  The siding for “Neste Resins” likely will have two industry models built: the modern wood chemical plant and a post-WWII government-funded wood alcohol plant.  I plan to place a cannery on a spur off the Marcola tail track—another fictional industry, but one well within the broader context of Willamette Valley industry.

Marcola Branch diverting off the RR-East end of Springfield.   The mainline is the outer track followed (outer to inner) by the Weyerhauser interchange tracks, Marcola main, and industry spurs and sidings.

Next steps for Springfield include removal of the full-size track plan (to be replaced by track centerlines), cork roadbed installation, and building the #8 turnouts. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012


With the backdrop spine installed for the middle third (“Valley Core”) of the layout,  it was time to apply the full sky effect.  Though the backdrop was primed with a light blue, the full sky effect needed to blend from a deeper blue at the top of the backdrop to a near-white haze layer near the horizon.  I reviewed backdrop painting techniques in print, video, and what I could remember from live demonstrations (thanks MFK!).  I am not a trained artist, but I understood the desired blending effect.  The best technique—one even a “mechanical” person such as me could accomplish—was provided by Pelle Soeborg in his “Mountain to Desert” soft cover book for Kalmbach Publishing. 

Pelle created six shades of blue by mixing varying amounts of his sky blue color and white.  He then applied them as six color bands and blended each band to its neighbors with a brush.  This technique is as close to “paint by numbers” as most of us will get for the desired sky blending effect.

 Band 4 of six blue bands being applied to the backdrop.

 Blending Bands 4 and 5 with a brush.

 Blending Bands 1 and 2 near the backdrop base.

As the pictures illustrate, I found it best to start with the top color band (my Band 6) and work down.  I also found it best to work in sections of about six feet length (arm length to arm length for me).  This kept the paint edge wet long enough to come back with the blending brush.  I also used a latex paint extender to lengthen the drying time.  I used both 2” sash brushes and other 2” and 3” brushes for blending.  I’ll probably pay for additional sash brushes for subsequent sky treatments.  The sash brushes were that much better to use.

I mixed six cans of paint ranging from my chosen sky color, Sherwin Williams “Blissful Blue,” to an almost white using the white base as the other color of the mix.  I used simple ratios: 6:0, 5:1, 4:2, 3:3, 2:4 and 1:5, blue to white.  Though I obsessed about the sky blue color for weeks, studying photos and the actual sky, in the end I selected a compromise color, using Sherwin Williams paint (not a lot of blue cards in their line) as the local store personnel were very helpful and knew their product.  I mixed the paint in quart cans supplied by my paint dealer.

I labeled all of the paint gear with the paint ratios (paint cans, mini-roller trays, mini-rollers) and the brushes used for the blending (e.g. 2-3 for Bands 2 and 3).   Clean up was a chore.  Six cans of paint, six mini roller pans, six rollers, six brushes.

The completed backdrop sky seen in the image below is fairly well blended, though some color banding still appears.  Addition of other backdrop details (terrain, cities) and clouds will complete the blending.  For now, I am very happy with the six-band sky treatment and blend.  It’s a good non-artist technique.

Completed backdrop sky in the Eugene Depot area.  Note that the post  (with thermostat mounted on it) blends into the backdrop even though the right side of the post has a firm end with the backdrop inset on this side just beyond the post.