Sunday, June 6, 2021

Layout Update - The End is Near

No, this (very fortunately) is not a post about me leaving the hobby or tearing down the layout - although you'd be excused if you interpreted my lack of posts lately as evidence of something amiss. The only "miss" though, has been the lack of time in the basement due to my busy time at work. But The End - of the 2021 legislative session - is Near. In fact, we adjourn midnight this coming Wednesday, June 9 and while there are rumors of having to go into special/additional session, that's hardly ever as busy as regular session.

So, between that and my Mustang modifications drawing to a close, the Model Railroad Bug has started to nibble a bit again and I've been looking forward to getting back to the basement. Apparently, so have my - ahem - "helpers"...

Since my last layout update, and during the long work hours, I've been trying to figure how to pick up where I left off - namely, with the backdrop around the end of the peninsula between Goff Brook and Rocky Hill.

As you can see in the "before" pic above, I have a great image that shows a barn in the distance that I think will work really well here. The problem is, the tree line and field are level/horizontal, while the foreground terrain drops off from right to left. When I last worked in this area in mid-February (?!), I couldn't figure out whether there was a way to correct this in Photoshop Elements, so I scoured the internet for images of tree lines that went down hillsides. I couldn't find any really suitable images and right about that time, work got extra busy.

So the layout sat idle for a few months.

Thankfully, I had the entire Memorial Day Weekend off and was able to devote a nice, rainy Sunday to getting back to it - with a little help from a friend . . .

Regular readers will recognize BillS and many will also recall that he has some MadSkillz when it comes to Photoshop. Despite PS Elements not having the tools in the same places (or with the same names!) as the full Photoshop, he knew right away what I needed to do to the image and, most importantly, how to do it. You can just see on the computer screen there that we'd/he'd already started "pulling the horizon down" using the tools he introduced me to.

But before you know how far to pull things down, you first have to measure the terrain - specifically the distance/drop ratio so you know how to follow the slope. So yeah, that required me to get out my handy, dandy level. It ain't a scenery session unless this left-brained modeler gets out the precision measuring tools. Thankfully, Bill is left-brained enough to balance me out (hey! I guess together we have one Really Especially Good Brian? Must think about that . . .)

Once I knew the drop over distance measurements, I told Bill who then pulled/skewed the right amount of treeline just the right amount. Here are the results . . .

Now, one thing you'll learn about Bill - and if he ever gets around to doing another blog, you'll see it firsthand - he works FAST. We just figured out that he broke ground on his new, double-decked O&W layout at the end of July last year - and he already has some scenery and structures on it! Yeah, he definitely ain't slow.

The only downside of that, at least last weekend, was that we moved so fast creating the image I needed that I forgot to change the color of the sky to match the color of the blue on my masonite backdrop. We were so excited to get the image over to Staples to print it out and mount it up, that we skipped that critical step. (For a full description of my backdrop process and how great Staples is for printing photo backdrops, click here for the post). And here's the result:

Yup, a bit of white (actually, REALLY light blue) border right at the top of the trees. PRO TIP: use Photoshop to select ALL of the sky on your backdrop photo and "paint" the sky in the image with a color that matches your sky color. Then, when you cut out the backdrop, the "right" color will show "through" the lacy trees. You're welcome :^)

Bill said that operators probably won't even notice, but that if it really bothered me I could "just" reprint the image and remount it. Heh - it was hard enough trying to slide/fit/glue the image behind the existing scenery and trees that I definitely won't be doing that. So, another PROTIP: If possible, mount your photo backdrops before your foreground scenery - at least before you add trees(!).

Alternatively, I could try painting the white border with my sky colored paint - but Bill suggested if I do that to try "stippling" it on to at least soften the hard white edge, so that's what I'm going to do. I was actually going to try and get to that today, but had to catch up on some yard stuff before going into the final stretch of long days at work.

So fingers crossed for next weekend . . .

Thankfully, as we go "north" around the peninsula, the white border is a little less obvious - probably because the backdrop here is just a distant tree line to suggest that there's "something" behind the foreground trees . . .

So I'll probably try stippling some blue here first and see how it turns out. No use practicing in an obvious place!

But all in good time. As of midnight tonight, there's 72 hours left before Life can begin again - or at least life on the layout. Since the bug is starting to bite hard, and the itch to get back to the basement is getting stronger by the day, I'm looking forward to getting back into it asap. 

Thanks to all of you for continuing to follow my progress - and I'll plan to have more progress & news to share in the coming weeks (including, I'm told, perhaps a ProtoThrottle for my anniversary present...)

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Wordy Wednesday - The Current State of Things

Hmmm.... How do I make this post into something other than the all-too-typical "sorry I haven't been posting lately - life's been busy - blah blah blah" kind of post?

Well, I guess I'll start with some news that was equal parts encouragement and a kick in the pants to get back to the basement . . .

Thanks to my friend over at the AML Keven Marks for posting this on FB - and to NMRA President-Elect Gordy Robinson for creating and producing the NMRAx. While I'm convinced that my number of views has more to do with accidental clicks since my video happens to be at the top of the page, I'm definitely grateful for the exposure - and the friendly pressure nudge to get back to the layout.

Ah, yes. Whither the layout? I'm sorry to have to confess I haven't done anything on it since mid-February and haven't posted anything but a couple of "Wordless Wednesdays" since Feb. 4. I don't remember whether I've mentioned it here on the ol' blog, but I got a promotion and new position at my day job and that's required a LOT more of my time. And "worse" yet, I actually like the new position a lot. So I'm finding myself spending more of my "free" time working, whether by absolute necessity, or just to get on top of stuff - and sometimes to get a little ahead of it.

But the last thing you want or need to read is a "woe is me" post - we ALL have work and life challenges that get in the way of the hobby. Thankfully, if we're lucky - and with a little help and support from friends and family - we're always able to get back to it eventually.

In the meantime though, here's a snapshot of the layout as it currently stands - not only by way of a little update, but as an overview for newer folks that may not have seen a tour of The Valley Line before . . .

We'll start at the bottom of the basement stairs and turn our heads left to see the east end of Old Saybrook, CT and "East End" (New London/Worcester/Providence/Boston) staging.

Panning right and backing up a bit to take in the entire view - this is Old Saybrook, aka Saybrook Junction. You're looking south on the Valley Line as it terminates in the wye. There's a cut of (newly acquired!) freight cars on the east leg - and PDX-2, aka "The Haddam Local", aka the westbound Shore Line Local is parked on the west leg - right where I left it a few months back.

Turning right into the next room, we can barely make out the west end loop, along with west end staging (New Haven, NYC, and points west & south), below a freelanced rendition of the New Haven RR's Airline branch.

Turning further to the right, we see what will be the town of Essex, just north of Saybrook on the Valley Line.

Moving further into the room we see an overview of the fictional town of Mill Hollow on the Airline.

As we head around the end of the peninsula, we can see "way north" on the Valley Line all the way to Shailerville Bridge, just north (left) of East Haddam.

Looking down the aisle, here's Deep River on the right (on the opposite side of the peninsula from Essex) and East Haddam on the left.

Heading north on the Valley Line (and into the other room), we look north into the city of Middletown, CT.

And, panning right (and now looking south), we see Cromwell in the far distance, Dividend (which is in medias res), and Rocky Hill in the foreground.

Panning a little further right, we see where I left off with the photo backdrop - still trying to figure it out in this area...

Heading "north" around the peninsula, we see the Goff Brook section of Rocky Hill, with Wethersfield in the distance (and where I left off mocking up more photo backdrop)

A closeup of the Jordan Lane area of Wethersfield, with John Wallace's house in the left foreground, Wethersfield Lumber across the tracks, and Ballantine's beer distributors at the right rear. You can also see my successful (if I don't say so myself) attempt at colorizing an old photo for a backdrop - see details here.

Finally - saving the best (or at least most "finished") area for last - the town of East Berlin, somewhat freelanced with beautiful buildings from Bill Mcguire, and a prototype station building by Dave Messer.

Wow - even just going around the basement "touring" the Valley Line & snapping some quick grab shots has kindled a little spark to get back to it. But work will continue to get busier and busier until legislative session adjourns on June 9, so it'll be hard to get to the basement. But lest you think I'm all work and no play at all, I'll confess to another competitor for my time . . .

I've had this for a few years now, and most recently (well, last Autumn) posted about its use as a "truck" to haul part of a locomotive. With the spring weather - and LOTS of pent-up desire to Get Outside - I've been going down the rabbit hole of researching Mustang modifications. It's almost cliche in the hobby that you start with it when you're young, get away from it to pursue cars and girls, and then come back to it later in life. Well, I already have the girl, but I totally missed the cars bit in my younger days. Guess I'm making up for it now. . .

Shots at Shailerville Bridge, years apart.

But my interest in model railroading has survived a lot of other distractions along the way, including college & law school, young married life, and - most recently - bike racing . . . and I've always come back to it. There's just something about researching the history of a place and trying to replicate it in miniature, all the while creating something that actually moves, that I - and apparently hundreds of thousands of others - find incredibly appealing. It's a hobby shared by everyone reading this - and is the glue that binds us together, no matter what other interests we may have.

So be patient as I get through these long days at work - and the few days out in the garage. I suspect there'll be a rainy weekend day coming soon that you'll find me back in the basement working on the Valley Line.