Monday, May 9, 2022

Modeling Monday: RMC Article & Cromwell Backdrop

With all the hubbub at work and end of session (finally!), I totally forgot to post here that I have an article in this month's Railroad Model Craftsman! (though, admittedly, I did post about it over at the Valley Local Facebook Group last week)

And this weekend - with some color help from the Missus - I finally got around to finishing that transition between road and backdrop.

Also this weekend, in addition to starting work in Cromwell (roads, sidewalks, building placement, and such), I used this article as a guide to starting the backdrop . . . 

Long time readers will recognize the photo I started with: 
Source: Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut, via Robert J. Belletzkie. Max Miller Collection.

This is the Middlesex Turnpike in Cromwell, looking north across the Valley Line. Though the quality/resolution of the photo itself isn't great, it's shot from the perfect vantage point for use on my layout - and it even has the proper-era vehicles.

The main problem is - it's a black & white photo.

No problem though (see RMC article above - and go here if you need a copy :^), I used an online colorizer (in this case, MyHeritage) to make it suitable for photo backdrop use:

These colorizers are super quick and easy to use. Now for the real work. . .

First step was to bring the photo into PhotoShop Elements and crop it (can't have the Valley Line in the background and foreground both!

Cropping was easy enough, but I had a LOT of photo editing to do. Here's a short list of what I wanted to do, from left to right:
  • Remove right edge of diner
  • Remove sparse trees, and fill in others
  • Remove light pole
  • Remove power lines
  • Remove white flag pole
  • Remove black sign and reconstruct rear fender of white car
  • Remove crossing sign pole & sign
  • Fill sky with "sky color" to match paint color on my masonite backdrop
Here's the result (as always, you can click on the image for a larger view:

Using the hill on the right (view block between Cromwell and Dividend) and the buildings on the left as the "bookends", I determined I'd need this section of backdrop to be 24" wide and 6" high. You can barely make out two people in the Cromwell photo, so I scaled the photo so that they'd be about 5/8" tall (instead of a typical HO scale height of 3/4", to account for the fact that the scene is in the distance).

So here's where things currently stand... the "canvas" is 6"x24" & filled with my "sky color" and the rescaled photo is in place. I determined its exact location by noting where my foreground road centerline hit the backdrop and then locating the road centerline of the photo at that same location.

After obsessing for, literally, years over the backdrop at Wethersfield (that's Jordan Lane in Wethersfield in the RMC article), I'm psyched that I'm not getting bogged down with the Cromwell backdrop. In fact, once I fill in to the right and left of the main photo (likely with trees), it'll be ready for printing and installation (click here the process I use).

In the meantime, I have plenty to keep me busy in Cromwell - including getting back to the roads, sidewalks, and structures... and of course, scenery. I'll be sure and post my progress here - and hope that you'll provide some helpful feedback/suggestions in the comments below. . .

Until next time!


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks so much! I've had a few articles in Model Railroad Hobbyist, but - other than a review in Model Railroad news - this is my first article in a "bricks & mortar" magazine. Hope you enjoy it!